Eight Indian women have died and 20 others were in critical condition yesterday after undergoing sterilization surgeries in a free government-run program to help slow the country’s population growth.
A total of 83 women, all poor villagers under the age of 32, had the operations Saturday in a hospital outside Bilaspur city in the central state of Chhattisgarh, officials said. All 83 surgeries were conducted within six hours, said the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. S.K. Mandal.
Each of the women had received a payment of 600 rupees, or about $10, to participate in the sterilization program, Mandal said.
The women were sent home Saturday evening after their surgeries, but more than two dozen were later rushed in ambulances to private hospitals after becoming ill. By Tuesday, eight of the women had died — apparently from either blood poisoning or hemorrhagic shock, which occurs when a person has lost too much blood, state deputy health director Amar Singh told the Press Trust of India news agency.
Twenty other women were in critical care, according to the district magistrate, Siddharth Komal Pardeshi.
The state suspended four government doctors, including the surgeon who performed the operations and the district’s chief medical officer. It also will give compensation payments of about $6,600 to each of the victims’ families.
A spokeswoman for the federal Health Ministry declined to confirm whether the central government was setting sterilization quotas for states. India’s central government had said it stopped setting targets for sterilizing women in the 1990s.
India’s government — long concerned with fast growth in a country whose population has reached 1.3 billion — offers free sterilizations to both women and men who want to avoid the risk and cost of having a baby, though the vast majority of patients are women.