2. Hygiene At Her Clinics was Abysmal
Possibly the most serious and justified criticisms of the charitable work carried out by Mother Teresa was the lack of basic hygiene in the Home for Dying Destitutes in Kolkata. Robin Fox, the editor of the journal of the British Medical Association, The Lancet, described the medical care he had witnessed there in 1994, as “haphazard.” Fox reported that doctors only occasionally visited the patients and that the level of pain relief provided was inadequate, which caused unnecessary suffering.
Because of this lack of doctors, the nuns and volunteers, many of whom had no formal medical training, had to make decisions in relation to patient care. Fox also noted that the nuns and volunteers did not seem to make a distinction between patients with curable and incurable conditions, which led to patients with treatable conditions receiving inadequate care. Fox did, however, acknowledge the good work which the nuns and volunteers carried out, such as tending to sores and wounds, and the kindness in the way they cared for the patients, but he felt that pain management at the facility was “disturbingly lacking.” He also remarked on the failure to segregate patients with tuberculosis from non-infected patients.
A former volunteer at the Home of the Dying Destitutes claimed that needles were inadequately sterilized, that they were rinsed in cold water before being reused, and similarly, soiled and infected clothing was washed by hand before being reused. Another former volunteer claimed that patients were also given expired medication.
In the Hell’s Angel documentary, Mary Loudon, a former volunteer at Nirmal Hriday, tells of the inadequate pain relief that terminally ill patients with cancer received, saying that aspirin and occasionally brufen was used. Loudon also recalls a conversation she had with an American doctor in relation to a fifteen-year-old boy with a minor kidney problem, whose condition had deteriorated because he had not received any antibiotics and who needed emergency surgery. The doctor told Loudon that the nuns would not bring him to a hospital to have an operation, because “if they did it for him, then they would have to do it for everyone.”
Hitchens believed that had the Home of the Dying Destitutes been operated by any branch of the medical profession it would have been subject to “protest and litigation” and described Mother Teresa’s order as a “cult of death and suffering.”