India investigating deaths after sterilization surgeries went wrong

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NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s prime minister is calling for a thorough investigation after eight women died after undergoing sterilization surgeries as part of a free program run by the government with the goal of curbing India’s population growth.

In all, 83 women underwent the operation on Saturday in a hospital in the Bilaspur district in the central-Indian state of Chhattisgarh. All of the women were poor villagers under the age of 32 who were convinced to participate in the procedure because they were offered about $10 to do so. The women were sent home after the procedure, but eight later died and 20 are in critical condition.

A health official said the deaths seem to be from blood poisoning or from shock from losing too much blood, but a definitive cause can’t be determined until autopsies are performed.

The office of Chhattisgarh’s chief minister, Raman Singh’s office, says four local health department officials were suspended after the many women ended up dead or hospitalized.

The Human Rights Watch condemns sterilization drives used to regulate population growth because women are paid or coerced to have surgery in unsanitary conditions. The group advocates shifting the focus to contraception and male vasectomies, which are safer procedures.

“It was almost inevitable, given the unsafe, unethical and unhygienic conditions that persist throughout India in these camps,” said Kerry McBroom, director of the Reproductive Rights Initiative at the Human Rights Law Network in New Delhi. “You might find that there is no electricity, there is no running water, there is not enough staff in these facilities. They won’t have things like blood, in case someone hemorrhages…they won’t have enough gloves or aprons,” she said.

 

 

The Associated Press and CNN Wire contributed to this story.

 

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