A Hospital That Charges Women For Screaming

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 11 2013 3:39 PM

A Hospital That Charges Women $5 Every Time They Scream During Childbirth

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Newborn babies rest at a maternity ward run by Medecins Sans Frontier (Doctors Without Borders) on April 23, 2011 in the Abobo quarter of Abidjan

File photo by Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images

The Washington Post's Max Fisher flags what I can only hope is the most disturbing anecdote from Transparency International's biennial "Global Corruption Barometer," a report that in general hasn't exactly made anyone feel good about the structures of business and society around the world*:

Corruption is so systemic in Zimbabwe, one of Africa’s poorest countries, that a local hospital charges mothers-to-be $5 every time they scream while giving birth. ... The $5 hospital screaming fee, purportedly a charge for “raising false alarm” but clearly aimed at separating mothers from their money, is no joke. Gross domestic product per capita is only $500 in Zimbabwe; average annual income per person is about $150. Zimbabwean hospitals also charge a $50 delivery fee. This means that, in a country where underemployment is 95 percent and poverty is rife, a mother who screams a few times during delivery might owe half her annual income after giving birth.
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You can read the full TI report here. The organization found that roughly a quarter of the global population paid some type of bribe in the past year. The disturbing hospital anecdote aside, the report—which surveyed more than 100,000 people in 100-odd countries—suggests that the police and the court system are the most prone to bribery. Overall, nearly one-third said their interactions with police included paying a bribe.

The country where corruption appears to be the most rampant is Sierra Leone, where 84 percent reported paying a bribe. The least? A four-way tie between Australia, Denmark, Finland and Japan at 1 percent. Seven percent of U.S. respondents said they'd paid a bribe. BBC News has a handy interactive here.

*Correction, Friday, July 12: An earlier version of this post mistakenly described the Global Corruption Barometer as an annual report. It is biennial.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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