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Monday, September 05, 2016

Mother Teresa and The Lancet

There's an article at America magazine's blog by Fr. James Martin SJ which criticizes Mother Teresa's critics and compares her to Jesus. I don't agree with his view, and that led me look up a past article in the medical journal, The Lancet, by the editor, Dr. Robin Fox. He had visited Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying and wrote about what he saw there ... "Mother Theresa's care for the dying", Robin Fox, Lancet, 9/17/1994, Vol. 344 Issue 8925, p807. 2p. Here below is a bit from the article (which was free online from my public library).

Many of the patients there were not actually dying but simply ill. The medical care they received was "haphazard", with doctors dropping in only once in a while and most care being given by volunteers or nuns, only some of whom had any medical knowledge. Illnesses were misdiagnosed, wrong medications prescribed, and routine diagnostic tests were not given to patients ... "Could not someone have looked at a blood film? Investigations, I was told, are seldom permissible. How about simple algorithms that might help the sisters and volunteers distinguish the curable from the incurable? Again no. Such systematic approaches are alien to the ethos of the home. Mother Theresa prefers providence to planning;" And then there was the subject of pain management ... "I was disturbed to learn that the formulary includes no strong analgesics. Along with the neglect of diagnosis, the lack of good analgesia marks Mother Theresa's approach as clearly separate from the hospice movement."

Mother Teresa has said that "suffering is gift from God". I don't believe the creepy notion that suffering is a good thing, that God sends it to us, that we should not try to alleviate it but embrace it. That a person who believes this should be in control of the treatment of dying and ill patients is just wrong. When Mother Teresa herself was sick and suffering, she went to high tech medical centers like the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. The words "double standard" come to mind.

She is not like Jesus.


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