On Saturday, 83 women underwent sterilization surgery in Chhattisgarh, India, and at least 12 died after a botched procedure. According to the BBC, 50 of the women are currently in hospitals across the state – at least 34 of whom are in critical condition. Four health officials are suspected of involvement and have been suspended. The women, all under the age of 32, were allegedly operated on in a six-hour period by only one doctor and one assistant.
The women all went to a free sterilization camp, a common fixture in India, set up to help stem the country’s increasing population of 1.3 billion. The patients are typically women who are often paid to undergo the surgery or are pressured by officials. The women in the state of Chhattisgarh were paid 600 rupees, the equivalent of about $10, to undergo sterilization.
Chief Minister Raman Singh visited hospitals in the city of Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh where the women are being treated, and has ordered an inquiry. Singh also announced compensation for the women and their families. Amar Agrawal, minister of Health and Family Welfare, said he takes full responsibility for the incident, but will not be resigning, reports The Hindu.
Bilaspur mayor Vani Rao says that at least 18 women have died so far after botched sterilizations in Chhattisgarh, but that the Indian government is attempting to conceal the real number of deaths by placing women in different hospitals, making them harder to track. Dr. S.K. Mandal, Chhattisgarh’s chief medical officer, said that 83 sterilizations in one hour is not normal, but the causes of the death will not be known until autopsies can be conducted. A preliminary examination suggests that blood loss and shock are likely.
One of the doctors who was suspended won an award last year for conducting 50,000 sterilizations, according to the BBC. Mandal told the Associated Press that sterilization targets are set by the government and that the target for the Bilaspur district where the women were operated on had an annual goal of 15,000 sterilizations. The federal health ministry denies having targets, a practice the Indian government had promised to end in the 1990s.
Deepa Yadav, a mother of two, went to the sterilization clinic on Saturday, and 12 hours after the operation, the 22-year-old started vomiting. Hemlata Suryavanashi, a 25-year-old mother of three, developed breathing problems hours after the procedure. The vast majority of women who elect to be sterilized are poor, reports the Associated Press.
The sterilization procedure involves disrupting the flow of eggs through the fallopian tubes by cutting, sealing or tying the tubes. The ovaries continue to release eggs following the sterilization, but the eggs are reabsorbed into the body. When done correctly, the procedure is safe and effective, but requires anesthesia and there is a serious risk of infection and organ damage if the procedure is not done properly. It is also difficult to reverse the sterilization.
According to The Hindu, women who fell ill after the botched surgery in Chhattisgarh will be given a compensation of about $800, and the families of the women who died from the sterilizations will receive about $6,500. The BBC reports that as well as payment to the individual volunteering for the procedure, health workers often receive a payment for bringing in volunteers and many states have incentives for couples opting to undergo the procedure.
By Sree Aatmaa Khalsa
Photo by: Rakesh Sahai – Flickr License