A state-run sterilization campaign in India went tragically wrong over the weekend, as botched laparoscopic tubectomy operations have killed 11 women and hospitalized dozens more. The women were paid around $10 each as part of a government program to curb population growth in the country of 1.3 billion people. More than 80 women underwent the surgery over the weekend, and three-quarters of the women became ill hours after the operation.
State officials say the surgeon performing the operations is to blame. “One surgeon performed surgery on 83 women in the space of six hours on Saturday—meaning he could have spent only a few minutes on each patient,” Dr. Amar Singh Thakur, a local health official told the New York Times. “The women began to fall ill around five hours after being discharged, Dr. Thakur said, experiencing giddiness, vomiting and low blood pressure.” The doctor performing the operations—Dr. R. K. Gupta—denied responsibility for the horrific outcome in an interview with the Times:
“They went back to their villages and went to the village quacks who gave them antibiotics,” he said. The vomiting and abdominal pain, he said, “are all a reaction to these medicines.” Dr. Gupta confirmed having performed 83 surgical sterilizations in six hours with two assistants. He said he had performed 50,000 sterilizations in his career, in private and government hospitals.
“Four doctors have been suspended and police have registered a criminal complaint,” according to the Guardian. “The cause of the deaths was not yet clear, but officials said they were looking into several possibilities, including whether the surgical equipment was infected,” Reuters reports. “Deaths due to sterilization are not a new problem in India, where more than four million sterilizations were performed in 2013-14, according to the government. Between 2009 and 2012, the government paid compensation for 568 deaths resulting from sterilization, the health ministry said in an answer to a question in parliament two years ago.”