In North Korea, Surgery Comes Without Anesthetic
Nation's health care is in crisis, says Amnesty International
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 15, 2010 12:15 PM CDT
A South Korean student walks by a picture showing North Korean's daily foods at a Korean War exhibition in Seoul, South Korea.   (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man)

(Newser) – North Korea spends the least amount of money per capita on health care of any country in the world—less than $1 per person a year—and it's getting what it pays for, according to an Amnesty International report. Defectors and health professionals who work with North Koreans tell of major surgery being performed without anesthetic and epidemics worsened by malnutrition, the BBC reports.

The country says all its citizens receive free health care, but the reality is that North Koreans have had to pay for all services since the 1990s, according to the Amnesty report, which describes the situation as "dire" and North Korean hospitals as devoid of supplies and "barely functioning." Doctors accept payments of food, cigarettes, and alcohol for consultation, the report found, but demand cash in return for performing surgery.