Report details North Korean medical care horror stories
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s health care system is in shambles, with doctors sometimes performing amputations without anesthesia and working by candlelight in hospitals lacking essential medicine, heat and power, a human rights group said Thursday.
North Korea’s state health care system has been deteriorating for years amid the country’s economic difficulties. Many of its 24 million people reportedly face health problems related to chronic malnutrition, such as tuberculosis and anemia, Amnesty International said in a report on the state of the health care system.
A 24-year-old defector from northeastern Hamkyong province told Amnesty that a doctor amputated his left leg from the calf down without anesthesia after his ankle was crushed in a train accident.
“Five medical assistants held my arms and legs down to keep me from moving. I was in so much pain that I screamed and eventually fainted from pain,” said the man, identified only by his family name, Hwang.
“I was screaming so much from the pain I thought I was going to die. They had tied my hands and legs to prevent me from moving,” said a 56year-old woman from Musan who had an appendectomy without anesthesia.
The report was based on interviews with more than 40 North Koreans who have defected, mostly to South Korea, as well as organizations and health care professionals who work with North Koreans. Amnesty researchers did not have access to North Korea, one of the world’s most closed countries.