Albanian orphansBMJ 1996; 312 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.312.7044.1482c (Published 08 June 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:1482
EDITOR,—Sir Jonathan Boyce, a director of health studies with the United Kingdom's Audit Commission, has been extremely critical of Albanian mental hospitals and orphanages.1 His comments are particularly unfair since they ignore conditions in some British psychiatric institutions which are as bad as, if not worse than, anything in Albania.2 3 Boyce joins many other British health professionals who have been on foreign tours and have returned to publish undiplomatic articles which can only be hurtful to their previous hosts.
Boyce's account is the most offensive to date with his suggestions that the Albanian staff are lazy, that they play with children in their care only because of the foreign visitors' example, and that “perhaps the volunteers' greatest contribution is their demonstration of compassion: showing that they care about the clients. Some of it undoubtedly rubs off.”
The Albanian care assistants, nurses, and doctors will no doubt persevere with their difficult work under conditions of serious economic hardship. If they ever see Boyce again I hope they can explain to him the difference between compassion and wishful thinking. Perhaps the Audit Commission's publications would then contain more realistic approaches to improving the community care of seriously mentally ill people in Britain.4