Sunday, February 11, 2024

Moscow Further Distances Itself from International Medical Standards but Just How Far Remains Uncertain, Russian Doctors Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 7 – Despite giving preliminary Russian acceptance of the 11th edition of the International Classification of Illnesses in 2022, the Russian Health Ministry has now declared that, in response to public outcry from the population, it finds that the new edition violates the country’s traditional values.

            That has sparked a debate among Russian doctors and health analysts as to whether Moscow’s rejection of the international standards will lead to the mistreatment of some Russians with physical or mental disorders or will only keep in place the categories Moscow uses to collect data ( and

            Those viewing this ministry decision as dangerous point to the way in which the Soviet government ignored international standards and introduced the notorious notion of “sluggish schizophrenia” which the KGB regularly used to have dissidents confined to psychiatric prisons and subjected to medical torture.

            Alternatively, those who say that Moscow’s decision in this case won’t necessarily have such noxious effects point out that such international enumerations do not dictate treatment as such but only the way this or that set of symptoms is classified and reported for government statistics.

            The full consequences of this decision thus will only be known in the future and bear watching, But three aspects of the decision are already noteworthy: First, it does represent yet another Russian move away from international medical standards. Second, Moscow took this decision only after Putin launched his expanded invasion of Ukraine.

            And third – and this is above all the most important of these features of the decision -- Russian officials explained what they have done as the result of their desire to meet demands from the masses, a justification Soviet officials often used and one that points to yet another revival of Soviet practices by the current Russian government.

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