13 November 2014

India doctor arrested, denies role in women deaths

Dr. R.K. Gupta, center, the doctor who conducted sterilization procedures after which at least a dozen women died, is interrogated by police in Bilaspur, India, Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. Gupta insisted he didn't do anything wrong, even though he said he used to perform up to 10 times more surgeries a day than allowed. He had performed 83 surgeries in six hours, a clear breach of government protocol, which prohibits surgeons from performing more than 30 sterilizations in a day, Dr. S.K. Mandal, the chief medical officer of Chhattisgarh state said.
The doctor who conducted sterilization procedures after which 13 women died in central India was arrested, but insisted he didn't do anything wrong — even though he said he used to perform up to 10 times more surgeries a day than allowed.
Dr. R.K. Gupta, who had been hiding since Saturday's operations, was arrested at a relative's home near Bilaspur city late Wednesday, said Dr. S.K. Mandal, the chief medical officer of Chhattisgarh state.
Gupta denied responsibility for the deaths and blamed medication given to the women after the surgeries.
A total of 83 women had the surgeries as part of a free government-run mass sterilization campaign and were sent home that evening. But dozens became ill and were rushed in ambulances to private hospitals in Bilaspur.
Mandal said at least 13 women died and dozens more were hospitalized, including at least 16 who are fighting for their lives.
In this Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2014 photo, a team of doctors from Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Science talk to one of the women who underwent sterilization surgery as she receives treatment at a hospital in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, India. A total of 83 women, all villagers under the age of 32, had the operations Saturday as part of the federal government's free sterilization campaign and were sent home that evening. But dozens later became ill and were rushed in ambulances to private hospitals. According to officials more than a dozen women have died.
Gupta had performed the 83 surgeries in six hours — a clear breach of government protocol, which prohibits surgeons from performing more than 30 sterilizations in a day, Mandal said. He said investigators were also trying to determine whether the women, all of them poor villagers, had been given tainted medicines.
Indian women walk past a billboard advocating sterilization hung at the entrance of the District Women’s Hospital in Varanasi, India, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. At least a dozen women died this week following a state-run, mass sterilization program that has raised serious ethical questions about India's drive to curb a booming population by paying women to undergo tubectomies. India has one of the world's highest rates of sterilization among women, with about 37 percent undergoing such operations compared with 29 percent in China, according to 2006 statistics reported by the United Nations. About 4.6 million Indian women were sterilized in 2011 and 2012, according to the government.
"I am not guilty. I have been performing surgeries for a long time and there has never been any problem," Gupta told reporters in Bilaspur around the time of his arrest.
"I have a history of completing up to 200-300 surgeries in one day," he said. "There are no written guidelines, but what we have been told verbally is that we shouldn't perform more than 30 operations in a day."
He said the patients began throwing up and complaining of dizziness and weakness after they were given medication following the operations.
Gupta has been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, local Inspector General of Police Pawan Dev told the Press Trust of India news agency. If found guilty he would face a maximum punishment of life in prison.
Experts say the deaths are the result of a lack of medical oversight and because of sterilization targets set by the Indian government as part of its efforts to stabilize the country's booming population.
Indian women who underwent sterilization surgeries receive treatment at the District Hospital in Bilaspur, in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, after at least a dozen died and many others fell ill following similar surgery. The surgeon who performed the operations at the government-run "health camp" plowed through more than 80 tubectomies in six hours, a clear breach of government protocol, which prohibits surgeons from performing more than 30 sterilizations in a day, said Dr. S.K. Mandal, the chief medical officer in Chhattisgarh Wednesday. The surgeon, Dr. R.K. Gupta, was honored by the state government in January for performing over 50,000 laproscopic tubectomies, Mandal said, adding he believed Gupta was been under pressure to meet government-set targets for sterilizations. Mandal said that his state had a target of 220,000 sterilizations this year and Bilaspur, the district where the botched surgeries took place, had a target of about 15,000 surgeries.
In the 1970s, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed a policy of forcibly sterilizing men who had already fathered two children. Opponents said the program targeted unmarried and poor men, with doctors given bonuses for operating on low-income patients.
India's government said it stopped setting targets for sterilizing women in the 1990s. But doctors and human rights workers have alleged for years that targets exist, which would lead to inevitable coercion in villages where most people have limited access to education and health care.
Mandal said earlier that Gupta was likely under pressure to achieve his district's target of about 15,000 sterilizations.
A pregnant Indian woman walks with a child in the corridor of the Modern Government Maternity Hospital in Hyderabad, India, Wednesday, Nov.12, 2014. India has one of the world's worst records on maternal health care, with 200 women dying during pregnancy or childbirth for every 100,000 patients, compared with China's 37 deaths for every 100,000 women who give birth. At least a dozen women died and several others fell ill following sterilization surgery held as part of a free, nationwide program aimed at limiting births in the world's second-most populous nation, officials said.
In January, Gupta was feted by the state government for performing 50,000 laparoscopic tubectomies.
Sterilizations continue to be the most popular method of birth control in India, with many women opting for them because a one-time operation can help them take charge of their fertility.
But incentives and government quotas cause doctors to pressure patients into surgery rather than advising them on other contraception options.
Women in most Indian states are promised 1,400 rupees ($23) when they choose to have laparoscopic, or "keyhole," sterilization surgeries like those conducted in Bilaspur. The procedure is one of the most commonly performed minimally invasive surgeries, and is usually done under a local anesthetic.
The relatives of some of the women who died said they were bullied into getting the surgery. Most of the women had very young babies, some of whom were still breastfeeding.
An Indian woman carries an infant at the Modern Government Maternity Hospital in Hyderabad, India, Wednesday, Nov.12, 2014. India has one of the world's worst records on maternal health care, with 200 women dying during pregnancy or childbirth for every 100,000 patients, compared with China's 37 deaths for every 100,000 women who give birth. At least a dozen women died and several others fell ill following sterilization surgery held as part of a free, nationwide program aimed at limiting births in the world's second-most populous nation, officials said.
"I hope that he can never sleep in peace," said Sadhu, the husband of one woman who died after the operation. "The same thing should happen to him. Then he will know what it is like to lose someone in your family."
India has one of the world's highest rates of sterilizations among women, with about 37 percent undergoing such operations compared with 29 percent in China, according to the United Nations. About 4.6 million Indian women were sterilized in 2011 and 2012, according to the government.
In comparison, less than 1 percent of men choose to undergo vasectomies even though the cash incentive is higher at about 2,000 rupees ($33). Cultural taboos inhibit men from opting for the operation. 
(AP)

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