Eight women have died in India and dozens more are in hospital, with 10 in a critical condition, after a state-run mass sterilisation campaign went tragically wrong.
More than 80 women underwent surgery for laparoscopic tubectomies at a free government-run camp in the central state of Chhattisgarh on Saturday. Of these, about 60 fell ill shortly afterwards, officials in the state said.
Such camps are held regularly across India as part of a long-running effort to control the emerging economic power’s booming population.
“Reports of a drop in pulse, vomiting and other ailments started pouring in on Monday from the women who underwent surgery,” Sonmani Borah, the commissioner for Bilaspur district where the camp was held, told AFP news agency. “Since Monday eight women have died and 64 are in various hospitals.”
Four doctors have been suspended and police have registered a criminal complaint. Television footage showed women on stretchers being rushed into hospital with anxious relatives by their side.
Borah said authorities would investigate the incident, which took place at the government-run Nemi Chand hospital in the Pendari area of Bilaspur, 69 miles (110km) from state capital Raipur. The chief minister of Chhattisgarh, one of India’s poorest states, has ordered an investigation.
Deaths due to sterilisation are not a new problem in India, where more than four million of the operations were performed in 2013-14, according to the government.
Between 2009 and 2012, the government paid compensation for 568 deaths resulting from sterilisation, the health ministry said in an answer to a parliamentary question two years ago.
Authorities in eastern India came under fire last year after a news channel unearthed footage showing scores of women dumped unconscious in a field following a mass sterilisation.
The women had all undergone surgical procedures at a hospital that local officials said was not equipped to accommodate such a large number of patients.
The Indian Express daily said the operations in Chhattisgarh were carried out by a single doctor and his assistant in about five hours. “There was no negligence. He is a senior doctor. We will probe [the incident],” the chief medical officer of Bilaspur, RK Bhange, told the newspaper.
So-called “sterilisation camps” are held in Chhattisgarh between October and February as part of a larger programme to control India’s 1.26 billion population. Women who go through the surgery are given 1,400 rupees (£14) by the state.