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The Nation

Ashcroft to Remain in the Hospital

March 09, 2004|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's schedule for the week was canceled Monday so he could continue treatment in a hospital intensive care unit for a severe case of gallstone pancreatitis.

Ashcroft, 61, is being treated with antibiotics and painkillers and is unable to do any work, Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said. He is being visited mainly by his wife, Janet, other family members and close aides. He was taken to George Washington University Hospital on Thursday night after complaining of abdominal pain.

Doctors at the hospital were expected to decide today whether the attorney general would undergo surgery, officials said.

Ashcroft had been scheduled to appear Wednesday before the House Appropriations Committee to testify about the Justice Department's budget request. The hearing was postponed indefinitely, and it was unclear Monday when Ashcroft would return to duty.

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, a gland that secretes digestive enzymes and insulin. In Ashcroft's case, the cause is a gallstone blocking a passage that leads from the pancreas to the beginning of the small intestine.

Treating the ailment first requires that the secretions be stopped, a process that can take several days to a week. Medical experts say severe cases of pancreatitis can require hospitalization for a month.

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