OBITUARY : Alexander Dovzhenko

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The Independent Online
Alexander Dovzhenko was a doctor who developed a unique treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction. His method was approved by the World Health Organisation and has been franchised all over Russia and Eastern Europe.

He was born of Ukrainian parents in the Crimea, at Feodosia, a port on the Black Sea. His mother was a sister of Alexander Dovzhenko the film director. He graduated in medicine at his local university and served as a doctor during the Second World War. He then returned to Feodosia and developed his own method to treat alcoholics and drug addicts.

Alcoholism is a national disease in Russia. The latest statistics suggest that there are between 20 and 25 million alcoholics in Russia's 200-million population needing treatment. Dovzhenko fought Soviet bureaucrats for 20 years; he did not receive a licence to treat alcoholics until after Leonid Brezhnev's death in 1984. Rejecting the electric-shock treatment widely used by Russian charlatans, Dovzhenko prescribed only natural remedies, based on plants.

The Dovzhenko clinics now operate all over Russia and Ukraine (in Moscow alone there are 10), in the Baltic states and, more recently, also in Poland and Czechoslovakia. The method has been demonstrated in Finland, Germany and the United States, and was taught by Dovzhenko to young doctors at the medical school in Feodosia which now bears his name. Some 250,000 patients have been treated successfully.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union a new disease has enveloped Russia's young population - addiction to drugs, such as cocaine manufactured and brought from former Soviet Central Asia, and other more sophisticated drugs including heroin smuggled from Pakistan.

In the economic chaos of the country Dovzhenko's method has been abused - Russian and Ukrainian newspapers are full of advertisements offering to treat alcoholics and drug addicts selling unauthorised methods la Dovzhenko. In 1993 Dovzhenko, who hated publicity, was forced to make a statement in the Russian press, which had called him a "wonder healer", to the effect that only clinics approved by him and his team had a right to apply his method.

Jeanne Vronskaya

Alexander Romanovich Dovzhenko, doctor of medicine: born Feodosia 1919 ; died Feodosia 1 February 1995.