In Russia, a trip to the hospital may be what lands you in the morgue -- and that's if you ever get to the hospital in the first place. Russia needs its doctors. The country's citizens are the No. 1 smokers and the No. 4 drinkers per capita worldwide, in a region with the most rapidly expanding HIV/AIDS crisis on the planet. Russian male life expectancy is about 60 years, nearly two decades less than those of some of its neighbors not far to the west. Forty years ago, Russia was a leader in health care, ranking 22nd in the world; by 2000 it had fallen to 130th, the lowest in Europe and just four places above Sudan, according to a World Health Organization report on the world's health systems.
Free medical treatment is guaranteed under the Russian Constitution, but outside Moscow, the right to health seems to be reserved for those who can pay for private care. In some hospitals, lifesaving equipment dates back to the Soviet era, and air conditioning is a rarity -- even after 11,000 Muscovites died in a heat wave last year. In 2007, horrifying reports of child abuse surfaced. Orphaned infants left in a hospital in the central Russian city of Yekaterinburg had their mouths taped in order to muffle their cries. Babies are often tied down in their cribs in understaffed hospitals. A hospital near Moscow made headlines in 2009 when two orphaned girls were repeatedly attacked by a large rat running loose in the ward. Prison hospitals are infamous for refusing adequate treatment, like one in St. Petersburg where 30 inmates perished in a six-month span this year.
Above, parents wait with their injured child at a hospital in Kazan, Russia, on June 17, 2001.