November 10, 2009
CHENNAI: At 25, it was a surgery Meena Kumari least expected. When she had gone to the doctor last year with irregular menstrual cycle, a
city-based private hospital diagnosed a small fibroid and removed her uterus. Covered as she was by the government employees’ health insurance scheme, the hospital sent a Rs 40,000 to the insurance company.
Her surgery has now been termed ‘needless’ by an expert panel of doctors of the insurance company.
In what could be an indication of medical ethic violation that may have left several women medically unfit to conceive, more than 30% of the hysterectomies done under the insurance scheme have been termed ‘‘unwarranted’’ not just by the doctors employed by the insurance company but also by the senior private practitioners.
Records available with the insurance companies show that under the government employees’ health scheme, at least 540 women in the age group of 25-35, more than 100 of them in the 20-30 age group, have had their uterus or ovaries removed.
‘‘When we called one of the patients, she told us that she had agreed to go for the surgery only because she had been told that it could turn cancerous. Many young women need not have gone through the surgery. Many of them needed just medicines to regularise their periods. They had no family history or any other problems with their reproductive system,’’ said V Jagannathan, chairman, Star Health and Allied Insurance, who has been holding marathon meetings with hospitals warning them against such practices. Only recently, the insurance company removed two private hospitals in Nagercoil and Kanyakumari for charging extra from beneficiaries of the Kalignar health insurance scheme.
In fact, parallel audits on other health insurance schemes showed that uterus removal for women below 30 years has been very low. ‘‘We have 1.5 lakh women under the age of 35 covered under the general health insurance. Of this, just seven women below the age of 35 have had their uteruses removed. All of them were trauma cases, mainly accidents,’’ Jagannathan said. Meena Kumari, already has a child, but there could be others who have lost all chances of child bearing at a very young age.