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Page 29, 24th September 1994

24th September 1994
Page 29
Page 29, 24th September 1994 — Doctor criticises Mother Teresa's methods. The editor of the medical
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Doctor criticises Mother Teresa's methods. The editor of the medical

journal The Lancet has questioned the medical care and the competence of religious sisters at Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying in Calcutta.

Dr Robin Fox described a visit to the Calcutta home. He paid tribute to Mother Teresa's work, saying that it was largely thanks to her that people seldom died on the streets in the city. She had "sensitised" local people, so that they were now more likely to call an ambulance when they saw someone in distress than to avert their eyes.

But, he went on, for those admitted to Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying, medical care is "haphazard". He had seen a young man with a high fever prescribed the wrong drugs until a visiting doctor diagnosed probable malaria. "Mother Teresa prefers providence to planning; her rules are designed to prevent any drift towards materialism; the sisters must remain on equal terms with the poor", ,Dr Fox wrote. He noted that the most important features of the regime were cleanliness, the tending of wounds and sores and loving kindness. But he questioned the competence of the sisters •in managing pain. "Along with the neglect of diagnosis, the lack of good analgesia marks Mother Teresa's approach as clearly separate from the hospice movement", he delared, adding: "I know which I prefer."

In London, a pioneer of the hospice movement, Dame Cicely Saunders, told The Tablet that she was an "enormous admirer" of Mother Teresa's work. She pointed out that hospice workers in the West were in a different situation, and that Mother Teresa's workers were doing what they could. But she had also heard reports that the methods of medical care at the Home for the Dying were "very vague". "I am concerned at the reports about the lack of painkillers", she said. "I hope that as medical care improves in India, Mother Teresa and her sisters will follow along. We are all on a learning curve."