India: Women dying after surgical sterilisation not uncommon

December 15, 2014

In an Open Access article in the British Medical Journal, Priyanka Pulla from India reports on the recent deaths in India’s female tubectomy camps. In November, 13 women died after surgical sterilisation at a camp in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.

Laboratory reports have confirmed the presence of toxins in the drugs given to these women. However, the postmortem examinations of seven of the women indicate they had septicaemia, which can result from poor hygiene during surgery. The drugs had been procured from a local manufacturer without any examination of the quality certificates. The chief medical and health officer who was responsible for this has been suspended.

Abandoned hospital

Other rules were flouted at several levels, Pulla writes. The camp was held in an abandoned hospital with no running water and sterilisation of rusty equipment was inadequate. Sterilisations were carried out at a breakneck pace, with surgeon R K Gupta performing 83 operations in a few hours, well beyond the maximum limit of 30 allowed for each surgeon in a day.

Sterilisation camps

Women’s health activists claim that these dangerous conditions are not uncommon in sterilisation camps throughout India. They say that such camps, favoured by the Indian government as a way to perform tubectomies on many women in one go, often exceed the prescribed limit for surgeries in a day, do not adequately sterilise the equipment used on patients, and do not provide counselling before operations or care afterwards.

 Full article: Why are women dying in India’s sterilisation camps? BMJ 2014;349:g7509