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Doctor held on sterilisation deaths

A doctor who conducted sterilisation procedures after which 13 women died has been arrested, a senior medical official in India said.

SK Mandal, the chief medical officer in central Chhattisgarh state where the operations were performed, said the surgeon was arrested after he had gone into hiding.

According to Dr Mandal, the suspect, RK Gupta, performed more than 80 sterilisation procedures in six hours - a breach of government protocol which prohibits surgeons from performing more than 30 in a day.

The operations were part of a free government-run sterilisation campaign aimed at curbing a booming population. The women were sent home after the ops but dozens became ill. Thirteen died and 16 are fighting for their lives.

Gupta was arrested at a relatives' home in Bilaspur city.

A total of 83 women had the surgery, but dozens became ill and were rushed in ambulances to private hospitals in Bilaspur.

Dr Mandal said investigators were trying to determine whether the women, all of them poor villagers, had been given tainted medicine during their time at the "health camp".

Experts say the deaths are the result of a lack of medical oversight and the fact that the government in India sets sterilisation targets as part of its efforts to stabilise the population.

India's government had said it stopped setting targets for sterilising women in the 1990s, b ut doctors and human rights workers have alleged for years that targets exist, leading to coercion in villages where most people have limited access to education and health care.

Dr Mandal said Gupta was probably under pressure to achieve his district's target of about 15,000 sterilisations.

In January, he was feted by the state government for performing 50,000 laparoscopic tubectomies.

Dr Mandal said investigators were also trying to determine whether the women, all of them poor villagers, had been given tainted medicines.

Dr Gupta denied responsibility for the deaths and blamed medication given to the women after the surgery.

"I have been performing surgeries for a long time and there has never been any problem," he said around the time of his arrest.

He said that all the patients began throwing up and complaining of dizziness and weakness after they were given medication following the operations.

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 were still breastfeeding.

"I hope that he can never sleep in peace," said Sadhu, the husband of one woman who died. "The same thing should happen to him. Then he will know what it is like to lose someone in your family."


From Belfast Telegraph