Medicine: Mustard Plasters to Heart Surgery

A revolution in health care that is still being fought

Towering, superbly equipped research institutes contrast with hospitals that are bleak, antiquated and poorly staffed. Some Soviet physicians are equal to the best in the West in such fields as orthopedics and ophthalmology; yet doctors still use such primitive therapies as mustard plasters and cupping and even leeches. Treatment is administered free and drugs are inexpensive, yet patients often must bribe doctors and nurses for medication, operations, even to have linen changed and bedpans emptied.

Such is the paradoxical state of Soviet medicine. Even...

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