Ann Curry, on Dateline NBC, takes a film crew into Serbian institutions that look much the way institutions did in the U.S. a generation ago.
People with intellectual disabilities are shunned and warehoused, imprisoned without supervision under filthy conditions behind crumbling walls and rusted bars. They are given no treatment and meager care that may include being drugged or tied up day after day to control the anxiety and aggression that comes of being locked away. One man has been imprisoned in a crib for all of his 21 years. Among those shown are people with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and other conditions.
Disability is a source of deep shame in Serbia, and parents are urged to put children with intellectual disabilities away in remote government institutions or risk financial ruin. Some surrender their children without ever glimpsing their faces.
Rasim Ljajic, a government official in charge of the institutions, acknowledged that the conditions are inhumane, but said the government does not have resources to fix the situation.
Said Laurie Ahern, associate director of Mental Disability Rights International:
The idea of being locked away and the idea that somehow these people, that their lives aren’t valuable, that they are less than human, because they were born with a disability. It’s horrendous. And it’s awful. And it shouldn’t happen.
The video is here.
See earlier post here.
Reporter’s notebook, by Tim Sandler, NBC News producer