Women in India Forced into Unethical Hysterectomies

Holy Hormones Journal – Sterilizing women against their knowledge and will is a violation of human rights. Blaming women’s woes on their faulty uteri is barbaric medicine – without a scientific basis.  What this is showing is the total disregard for women in India – or forced population control. Women in India – nor anywhere in the world should not be forced into having immoral, inhumane and unethical hysterectomies.

Wombs and the wolves

The Week – Journalism with a Human Touch

By Swagata Yadavar
Story Dated: Monday, April 15, 2013 15:8 hrs IST
guddi-devi“I feel sick.”These words still echo in my ears. They did not come from a dying man or a depressed woman. They were whimpered by scores of ‘normal’ women in India’s rural hinterlands.

The cause lay in two words uttered by their unscrupulous doctors: bacchedani kharaab. These gullible women were told their uteri were faulty, and that they had to be removed.

THE WEEK’s journey through some villages in Bihar and Rajasthan revealed the plight of women—many of them allegedly unmarried—whose wombs were removed as “treatment” for everything, from a simple stomach ache to menstrual issues.

Why? The reason, again, lay in two words: filthy lucre.

Sunita Devi, a 35-year-old labourer of Latbasepur village in Bihar’s Samastipur district, would tell us more. It all started with a debilitating stomach pain, which she had ignored for long. Thanks to the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, she hoped to finally get proper treatment at a private hospital.

At Krishna Hospital, one of the hospitals empanelled in the rural health scheme, Sunita was told she needed an appendicitis surgery. And a hysterectomy, too. She underwent both eight months ago. Today, she is feeble. “I often get palpitations,” she said. “I get frequent headaches and gas trouble.”

The mother of five can no longer work in the fields. She now assists at a small shop in the village. The plight of her two sisters-in-law who also underwent hysterectomies is no different.

Three years ago, the RSBY, which entitles families below poverty line to free treatment up to Rs.30,000 a year, was implemented in Samastipur district of Bihar. It was a godsend for the rural masses. But, in the hands of greedy doctors, it became a cruel instrument to siphon off public money.

The Samastipur scam came to fore when District Magistrate Kundan Kumar found an alarming number of hysterectomies conducted by private nursing homes during an RSBY meeting. Of 14,851 procedures conducted under RSBY between 2010 and 2012 in 16 empanelled hospitals in Samastipur, 5,503 were hysterectomies. That is about 37 per cent of all procedures. In some hospitals, more than 50 per cent were hysterectomies, which costs the highest of all procedures under the RSBY scheme.

Kundan Kumar organised a five-day medical camp to ascertain if the procedures conducted were needed. About 2,600 women who had undergone hysterectomy attended the camp. The expert team found 717 cases of unwanted surgery, 124 cases of underage surgery, 320 cases of fleecing and 23 cases of non-surgery.

The magistrate’s report clearly pointed to gross unethical practices. For instance, Anita Devi, 23, who complained of abdominal pain and white discharge, had been operated upon. The expert team commented: “Conservative treatment should have done, hysterectomy not justified.” Similar was the case of Ratna Devi, 40, who underwent hysterectomy for appendicitis.

The report noted that many beneficiaries mentioned by the private hospitals could not be traced. In many cases, the hospitals simply swiped their RSBY cards but never conducted the procedures. There were also instances of procedures being marked against the name of dead people. Worse, some hysterectomy ‘cases’ reportedly turned out to be men!

It was found that many of the private hospitals and nursing homes did not have the requisite infrastructure for the procedures. Only some of them had well-trained surgeons, and in a few cases, operations were conducted by non-medical practitioners.

Subsequently, 12 of 16 nursing homes in Samastipur were de-panelled from the list. FIRs, too, were lodged against five of these guilty hospitals under various sections.

The involved doctors, meanwhile, were doing their best to cover their tracks. “Dr Thakur from Krishna Hospital often comes to our house asking for our signature on some paper,” said the family of Sangita Devi, 26. Sangita underwent hysterectomy two years ago. Since then, she has been battling frequent spells of weakness, dizziness and  headaches. She now weighs just 30kg and can hardly manage any work. She has already spent Rs.5,000 on medicine and the frequent trips to the doctors are eating away most of what her husband earns. When THE WEEK contacted, Dr Thakur refused to meet us.

PG

Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.