A tale of two Germanys: Some patients in former East Germany were more equal than others

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.331.7510.234-a (Published 21 July 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:234
  1. Herbert H Nehrlich, private practitioner (drhhnehrlich{at}westnet.com.au)
  1. Bribie Island, QLD 4507, Australia

    EDITOR—Further to the comments by Schwartz and Buser (previous letter), selective treatment was carried out to a considerable extent in elderly people during the communist decades of East Germany (O Nehrlich, personal communication).1

    If an elderly patient was in productive employment he or she was valuable to the system and deserving of medical treatment when needed. If the patient was retired and therefore a drain on the public purse the situation changed drastically. Diagnostic examinations such as radiography were often not done with the simple explanation that “at your age there is no need for x rays” (O Nehrlich, personal communication).2 People were not discouraged from travelling to the free world after retirement, and no one cared if they stayed there—purely an economic policy (O Nehrlich, personal communication).2 3

    Life expectancy and health in general in the two regions, eastern and western Germany, ought to become similar gradually, although enough negative circumstances in the east prevail that still lead people to a higher consumption of alcohol, something that was not discouraged under the communist regime. It is also worth mentioning that programmes existed in East Germany to improve and maintain the health of people who were still working. Fitness was encouraged and subsidies for sports were freely available. Factory workers were given breaks during working hours, during which they exercised. All this applied only to those who were part of the workforce.


    • HHN lived in East Germany until September 1961, and his father, Otto Nehrlich, was a medical professor in the East German health system.

    • Competing interests None declared.


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