“People must fight against the evil they feel equal to at that moment.”
Jan Palach, 17 January 1969
Already a few hours after Palach had set fire to himself, the clinic was surrounded by reporters demanding information about his health. The burn treatment centre head doctor, Jana Doležalová, thus decided to close the clinic and only let in Palach’s mother and brother Jiří. She even kept the Czech police investigators out of Palach’s room who wanted to find out details about Palach’s potential followers. She only took from them a tape recorder to record Palach’s potential testimonies (however, for unknown reasons, this recorder was probably not used at all).
According to the medical staff, Jan Palach insisted the group of his followers really existed. However, he refused to reveal who the members were. On 17 January 1969, a psychiatrist, Dr Zdenka Kmuníčková, recorded a short interview with Palach on a tape (probably using a different recorder than the one the Czech police provided). Palach repeated the demands from his letter and pointed out that, with his act, he wanted to rouse public awareness. On the same day, Palach was visited by his mother and brother, both being greatly shocked. Subsequently, both were hospitalized in a psychiatric clinic.
During his hospital stay, Jan Palach was in critical condition. When he was hospitalized in the clinic, Dr Marta Zádorožná said he had suffered second and third degree burns on 85 per cent of his body, which is life-threatening in most cases. Yet Jan Palach, who was given analgesics, was interested in the reactions to his act.
On Sunday, 19 January 1969, the physician treating Palach, Dr Radko Vrabec, called Palach’s friend from the dormitory, Eva Bednáriková, and asked her to come immediately to the hospital, because the patient wanted to talk to her. According to her statement, Jan Palach asked her to bring along the student leader, Lubomír Holeček. When she returned to the hospital with him, the Palach allegedly asked them to tell the other members of the group not to immolate themselves. The question remains, whether it really was Palach’s wish. The five day time limit for his requirements was almost over, and the fear of repeating this shocking act could possibly have led to a different interpretation of Palach’s statements. In his critical condition, he was not capable of making a coherent statement. After Bednáriková and Holeček had left his room, his condition deteriorated dramatically.
On 19 January 1969 at 3:30 p.m., Jan Palach was declared dead. In the evening, his corpse was transported to the forensic medicine building, where the sculptor Olbram Zoubek managed to take a cast of Palach‘s face for his death mask. An autopsy was also performed here; the immediate cause of death was “impending pneumonia resulting from the burns”.