Sheriff Michael Hennessey is planning to seek a court order to force doctors at San Francisco General Hospital to feed a patient charged with a double murder and end his hunger strike.
Hong Ri Wu, 57, who is being held in San Francisco General Hospital’s acute care facility, stopped eating three weeks ago, Hennessey said. Wu is accused of shooting and killing in January a man and woman who ran a Fisherman’s Wharf business that competed with Wu’s.
“He’s attempting to commit suicide by starvation, and that’s very upsetting,” Hennessey said.
According to Hennessey, Wu told a deputy — who speaks Cantonese — “I just want it all over.”
Prosecutors and defense attorneys disagree on Wu’s mental competency to stand trial. A hearing to schedule a separate trial on competency will take place next week.
Wu was transferred to San Francisco General from a psychiatric unit at County Jail No. 2 on Sept. 17 after jail medical staff determined that Wu’s refusal to eat had deteriorated his health to a point that required additional medical attention, sheriff’s spokeswoman Eileen Hirst said.
Now, Hennessey said he needs a court order to mandate the hospital to feed Wu because the hospital says it will not force treatment on a patient.
“As a hospital, we respect individual self-determination and include our patients in their health care decisions,” hospital spokeswoman Rachael Kagan said in a statement Wednesday.
Kagan declined to comment specifically about Wu’s case because of patient privacy laws.
Though Hennessey described the matter as urgent, he and the sheriff’s counsel, James Harrigan, backed off an attempt to secure a court order Wednesday. Hennessey and Harrigan had tried to obtain an order at an unrelated pretrial hearing in Wu’s criminal case, but Judge Garrett Wong declined to make an immediate decision.
Harrigan had “significant doubt that the judge had enough information to make a ruling in our favor,” Hirst said.
The department is working to secure additional medical information on Wu before returning to court, Hirst said.
Hennessey said he has dealt with hunger strikes before, but mostly by people protesting jail conditions, not because they are suicidal.
“In my opinion, he’s very depressed,” Hennessey said of Wu. “He’s facing a double murder charge. He’ll likely spend the rest of his life in prison. But my job is to keep people in custody safe.”
Examiner Staff Writer Ari Burack contributed to this story.