Dan EnachescuBMJ 2009; 338 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b1182 (Published 24 March 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1182
- Andreea Steriu,
- Martin McKee
Life in Romania in the 1970s and 1980s was not easy. Other Eastern bloc countries struggled to maintain basic living standards by borrowing from the West, but President Nicolae Ceausescu implemented policies that created the lowest living standards in Europe. Food and fuel were rationed, and most modern drugs were unobtainable. Access to health care depended on nepotism or bribes, and the government spent what money it had on grandiose building projects, notoriously demolishing 7000 houses to construct a palace.
Medical science was influenced by Ceausescu’s wife, Elena, who played a key role in the ban on birth control and legal abortions. One consequence was the highest maternal mortality in Europe. Another was the abandonment of thousands of babies to state run “orphanages” by their impoverished parents. The infection of many of these babies with HIV was a consequence of her encouragement of “microtransfusions” to treat infant malnutrition and denial that there was AIDS in Romania. The isolation of the …