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3 Sep, 2009 00:04

Estonian doctor trashes Russian patient’s passport

Estonian doctor trashes Russian patient’s passport

A doctor has been fired from an Estonian hospital for chucking the passport of a Russian patient into the dustbin because the teenager couldn’t speak Estonian.

The scandalous story, which drew heavy media attention, took place in the city of Kohtla-Järve in Ida-Viru County in northeastern Estonia, an area mainly populated by ethnic Russians.

The 14-year-old Dmitry came to see the orthopedist, Eiki Strauss over a leg injury.

According to novosti.err.ee, Dmitry’s mother Irina Gorokhova said that when her son came into the room, the doctor said “tere,” which means “hello” in Estonian. Dmitry answered “hello” in Russian. Then Strauss started to ask Dmitry questions in Estonian.

“The child was answering in Russian, telling that he bashed his leg and it was hurting badly,” Irina is quoted as saying.

When the doctor asked why Dmitry was speaking Russian, the boy said, “I can’t say the same in Estonian.”

Strauss’s reaction that followed was a bit weird, to say the least: He took the boy’s Estonian passport and tossed it in the trash, saying “you don’t need this passport since you don’t speak Estonian.”

According to Kaljo Mitt, the chief doctor at the hospital, when explaining his behavior Strauss referred to the law on the state language.

“In his comment, the doctor said he believes it’s obscene when a citizen with an Estonian passport doesn’t speak the Estonian language,” Mitt said. “He put the passport into a box under his desk.”

Strauss’s assistant then returned the document to Dmitry, who did, however, get medical help from the Russophobe doctor. But the patient’s parents, shocked by the incident, notified the police.

The following day the contract between Eiki Strauss and the hospital was terminated.

“His behavior really harmed the image of our clinic,” Mitt said. “And, I believe, affected the patient as well. Unfortunately, Ida-Viru Central Hospital can’t exclude such actions of medical personnel completely.”

The head of the hospital apologized to Dmitry and his parents, as well as to everyone else who might have been offended by Strauss’s actions.

But the story may not be over yet. According to the press service of the Estonian police department, the boy can bring his case to court and sue the orthopedist for punitive damages.

The doctor, for his part, also doesn’t seem to be ready to give up, and he may also take his case to court.

“I don’t rule out anything in this story,” he said in an interview with the Postimees newspaper. “The final decision, to go to court or not, will be made by my lawyer.”

Strauss believes the main argument he can use to support his case is the fact that, as he claims, the passport was thrown into a carton box but not into a dustbin, which would be an insult to both the citizen and the state that issued the document.

It’s not surprising the story got lots of media attention both in Estonia and Russia. The language issue has become a stumbling block in post-Soviet, and especially Baltic, states.