The relatives of Indian women who died following a state-operated mass sterilization campaign went terribly awry have told local media they were forced by government health workers to attend.
As reported by Britain's The Guardian newspaper, more than 80 women recently underwent surgery for laparoscopic tubectomies at a cost-free government-run camp in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, in the central part of the country. Around 60 of the women became ill following the procedure, officials said, and more than dozen had died, with a dozen more in serious condition.
"The [health workers] said nothing would happen, it was a minor operation. They herded them like cattle," Mahesh Suryavanshi, the brother-in-law of one woman who died, told the Indian Express newspaper.
India frequently holds women-only sterilization camps to control population
The reports noted that sterilization camps are held frequently across India as part of the country's longstanding effort to control the growth of its population, which stood at about 1.23 billion in July, according to the CIA's World Factbook.
Four doctors and other health officials have been suspended since the deaths and police have also filed a criminal complaint.
"It was a serious matter of negligence. It was unfortunate," said Raman Singh, chief minister of Chhattisgarh. He went on to note that authorities have launched an investigation into what happened.
Hundreds of deaths over the past decade
The incident occurred at a little-used private hospital, Nemi Chand, in the Pendari area of Bilaspur.
The Guardian further reported:
The dead included a woman who had given birth only days before. Others were reported to have been suffering from anaemia, severe asthma and diabetes. None appeared to have been properly examined before the operation. Being from poverty-stricken rural communities, many would have been in poor physical condition.
The procedures took place in one of India's poorest states and were done by just one doctor and his assistant over the course of about five hours.
Officials have said the exact cause of the deaths was not yet known but they suspect blood loss and infection caused by equipment that was not sterilized. Reports said that government guidelines suggesting medical instruments not be utilized for more than 10 operations were likely ignored.
The women who underwent the procedures were immediately discharged and given no further follow-up care or instructions. The papers also reported that sterilization deaths in India are not uncommon; more than four million of them were performed over the past year, according to government statistics.
In fact, between 2009 and 2012 the Indian government paid out compensation for 568 deaths resulting from sterilization procedures, according to a health ministry response to a parliamentary question a couple of years back.
In all, between 2003 and 2014, a total of 1,434 women died from the procedures; 2009 was the worst year with 247. On average, government figures show, there have been 12 deaths per month over the past decade.
The Guardian further reported:
"Sterilisation camps" are held in Chhattisgarh between October and February as part of a program to control India's population, which stands at 1.26 billion. Women who go through the surgery are given 1,400 rupees (£14) by the state, the amount reportedly paid in this latest case.
Sterilizing men is not 'socially acceptable'
One suspended medical officer told a local NDTV channel that the camp in question was established to meet mandatory targets.
"April to March there are annual targets – this was done according to that," said the official.
But Amit Agarwal, the state health minister, denied that there were any target goals set for sterilization.
According to reports, health workers – doctors included – are paid for each procedure they perform. And local Indian governments are known to offer women cars and electrical goods to induce them to undergo sterilization.
Male sterilization in India is still not considered socially acceptable, so most programs focus on sterilizing women instead, The Guardian reported.
Written by J. D. Heyes (NaturalNews)
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