Surgeon who performed botched sterilizations taken into custody
RAIPUR, India: An Indian doctor who conducted mass sterilizations that killed 13 women has been arrested, after saying he was being made a scapegoat for a controversial family planning scheme.
R. K. Gupta was taken into custody as anger mounted over the botched operations in central Chhattisgarh state, where women were paid to undergo a procedure that also left dozens in hospital, police said Thursday.
Gupta operated on 83 women in just five hours — spending an average of less than four minutes on each patient — at a state-run camp in Bilaspur district at the weekend.
The impoverished women were paid 1,400 rupees ($23) to undergo the surgery.
“After the arrest, he was produced before the jail of the court today and has been remanded to judicial custody for 15 days,” police inspector general Pawan Deo said from Bilaspur, adding that medical equipment used at the camp would be seized.
Gupta said the government was wrongly accusing him and blamed the drugs that were used during the surgery, as activists called for India’s family planning scheme to be overhauled.
“I have done so many operations before this and there have never been any problems. They (administration) are putting the blame on me,” he told NDTV as he was being taken into custody on Wednesday night.
“Almost all the patients are complaining now of how they started vomiting within 10 to 15 minutes of having the drugs.”
Inspector Deo said police had conducted a thorough search at the store that supplied the drugs, adding that “further investigation is needed to determine the supplier’s role in the incident.”
Although no cause of death has officially been given, authorities speculated that the women had died of septic shock.
The state government has banned five drugs used at the camp pending investigations, including an anaesthetic and a pain killer.
In all 336 people have died as a result of sterilizations in India in the three years since 2010, according to national government figures.
The victims had suffered vomiting and a dramatic fall in blood pressure on Monday after undergoing laparoscopic sterilization, a process in which the fallopian tubes are tied. Some 14 women remain in hospital in a serious condition.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh on Thursday ordered a judicial inquiry into the deaths, telling reporters “I assure you that no culprit will be spared.”
Neelu Bai said her mother Meera died after opting to have the surgery 10 months after giving birth to her fourth child.
“She started vomiting after she came back home. The doctor said she was vomiting because it was hot. He asked her to take another medicine (to stop the vomiting),” the 16-year-old told NDTV.
Human Rights Watch said India had a long history of sterilization-related deaths, in part because health workers were under pressure to meet “informal” monthly targets. Health workers faced salary cuts or dismissal in at least one Indian state if they failed to meet their quotas, HRW senior researcher Aruna Kashyap said on the group’s website.
Another group, the National Alliance for People’s Movement, said family planning programs unfairly targeted women, whose rights were often ignored.
India’s programs have traditionally focused on women, and experts say that male sterilization is still not accepted socially.
The government has suspended four health officials over the deaths, while angry protesters took to the streets in state capital Raipur on Wednesday demanding the chief minister’s resignation.