NEW YORK (Jun. 16)
In the presence of Mrs. Rivka Aleksandrovich, a team of kidney specialists contended today that her daughter, Ruth. was probably in “serious” condition in Riga and could well die of her disorders. The specialists based their opinions on a June 8 report from the 24-year-old prisoner’s former personal physician, Dr. V. Portnoy, writing from Ulpan Etsion, Jerusalem. Dr.Portnoy recalled last October Miss Aleksandrovich experienced “a sharp deterioration in her state of health, ” and that he prescribed diet, bed rest, antibiotics, vascular dilators and symptomatic remedies to aid her. But, he continued, “After a few days of the treatment, the patient was forcibly subjected to an examination of KGB (Soviet secret police) physicians in charge of the patient, about my error in the diagnosis. Without making their own diagnosis, they wrote in the case history that the patient could be further subjected to interrogations.” Dr. Portnoy wrote that he had disagreed with the KGB’s conclusion and that, after consulting with the Section Hoad, decided to resume his examination. “For this it was necessary to make a consultation with the lung specialist,” he wrote, “but the patient had already been taken for detention in prison.”
Dr. Portnoy’s letter was made public here today at a press conference at the headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith at which Mrs. Aleksandrovich appealed to the American medical community to aid her imprisoned daughter, because “I’m afraid she won’t be able to stand the four months” remaining on her 1-year conviction for alleged anti-Soviet propaganda. Dr. Ira Greifer, director of pediatrics at the Hospital of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and director of the National Kidney Foundation, headed the team of specialists who examined Dr. Portnoy’s report. He noted the report’s reference to “exacerbation of chronic pyelonephritis,” and described that condition as a “serious” one representing “the end results of recurring infection of the kidney with resultant impairment of kidney functions.” His conclusions were seconded by the five other doctors present at the press conference. Dr. Greifer said Miss Aleksandrovich required a special diet, sanitary conditions and continued medical care. Her mother reported that during her recent week in solitary confinement, she was placed in a cell with a wet floor and no bed and fed a regimen of bread and water. Her daughter, she continued, is now the only woman in the Potiama prison in central Moldavia.
Mrs. Aleksandrovich said that she had shifted her emphasis, while in the United States, from freeing Ruth to “saving her life.” All six physicians at the press conference said they would be willing to apply for visas to go to Riga, but one explained that they wanted word from B’nai B’rith first that they would be allowed to visit Miss Aleksandrovich. Speaking for B’nai B’rith, Dr. Elliot Rosenberg, first vice-president of District 1, said the organization would, within two weeks, urge the American medical community to protest the prisoner’s treatment to the Soviet authorities. Asked by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent why quicker action could not be taken, Dr. Rosenberg agreed to take action within “a few days.” At that point Mrs. Aleksandrovich rose and asked Dr. Rosenberg why B’nai B’rith could not seek direct medical aid for her daughter instead of letters from doctors, and why it could not protest directly to President Nixon. Regarding action to obtain direct medical aid, Dr. Rosenberg said: “I’m sure we will abide by her request.” Regarding an appeal to President Nixon, he said: “I’m sure this will be taken up by our special (political) committee.”