C'garh sterilisation: CSE says post-op infection caused deaths

C'garh sterilisation: CSE says post-op infection caused deaths

Challenging Chhattisgarh government's claim that death of 13 women in a sterilisation camp was due to contaminated antibiotics, a research and advocacy group has claimed that "post-operation infection" was the reason behind the deaths.

A detailed investigation done by Down to Earth (DTE) magazine of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) found that there was a "botch-up" during the "assembly line sterilisation procedure" which was done in "poor and unhygienic" conditions.

"Our research has revealed that the claim of state health officials that the deaths occurred due to contaminated antibiotics is not correct.

"Our colleague who travelled extensively in the district and met with both government officials and participants in the sterilisation camp has found that deaths were because of post-operation infection," director general of CSE Sunita Narain told PTI today.

"Botched" sterilisation surgeries at government organised health camps had claimed the lives of 13 women in Bilaspur in November and had left over a 100 critical.

The state government has constituted a judicial probe team to investigate into the matter.

Narain claimed that the post-mortem reports seen by the colleague who investigated the incident on behalf of the magazine says that the women had developed "septicaemia" (life-threatening infection).

Narain said the research pointed out to "gross violations of the 2006 national guidelines of sterilisation" and it was important that this tragedy makes us raise critical issues in the direction of India's family planning programme.

"India's family planning approach has become target driven, camp based, sterilisation focused where incentives are given to families and doctors to undertake these procedures. This happens in spite the fact that the National Population Policy actually discourages targets," she said.

The CSE suggested a revamp for the family planning programme and said that there is a need to move away from "target incentive based approach" to make family planning part of the health care services.

"This will undoubtedly require strengthening of the primary health care infrastructure, including recruitment of trained surgeons in the country. Furthermore, we need a basket of different options including emphasis on spacing methods and move towards male sterilisation," Narain said adding that such tragedies will not occur if one recognises true reasons of the tragedy and not look to blame elsewhere.

Meanwhile, DTE in its report "Operation Cover up" said that it has accessed seven post-mortem reports in which five were of women who died on November 11, one of a November 12 victim and one of November 13.

The report claimed that all five reports from the first day showed infection of the abdomen. The report from the second day showed "high infection in the body" while the report from the third day showed "septic shock".

"This shows the infection kept increasing among women who were sterilised on November 8. The results show definitively that the women got infection which must have come through unsterilised instruments," DTE said while quoting a forensic expert at Lady Hardinge Medical College in Delhi.

The report further said that with this, "the administration's beautifully crafted story of contaminated medicines collapses".

It said that the one-member judicial commission set up by the state government to investigate the deaths to collect testimonies of the survivors "seems to have placed the responsibility of reporting grievances on the survivors."

The report alleged that people wishing to give testimony have to visit the commission's office in Bilaspur city which remains "closed" most of the time. 

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