Mother Teresa was a very successful evangelist — but a champion of medicine or humanitarianism? Not so much

George Gillett in Salon:

Mother_teresa-620x412Reused needles, poorly trained staff and expired medications. The picture Hemley Gonzalez describes to me is not one often associated with adjectives such as “saintly” in the medical profession. Yet as he discusses his experience volunteering at facilities run by Missionaries of Charity, the organization Mother Teresa founded, it becomes increasingly apparent that few of his anecdotes correlate with the reputation she enjoys. “I was shocked to discover the horrifically negligent manner in which the charity operates,” he recalls.

His story is not atypical. Writing in the New Internationalist magazine about her experience working at Missionaries of Charity’s headquarters in Kolkata, another volunteer urged that the organization be “finally held accountable for its actions of abuse and neglect.” Similar concerns were raised in a 1994 UK documentary that featured the story of a 15-year-old patient who had been admitted with a “relatively simple kidney complaint.” His condition had deteriorated soon after the facility had refused to transfer him to a local hospital to undergo surgery.

Criticism of Mother Teresa’s mission has also come from the medical profession. Dr. Robin Fox, former editor of the medical journal the Lancet, described the Missionaries of Charity facilities as “haphazard” as early as 1994, recounting how he witnessed a young man with malaria be treated with only ineffective antibiotics and paracetamol. “Along with the neglect of diagnosis, the lack of good analgesia marks Mother Theresa’s approach,” he wrote in an article for the journal.

More here.