Probe demanded in Chhattisgarh sterilisation deaths

New Delhi


A fact-finding team working on public health Monday called for an independent inquiry commission to probe into the Bilaspur sterilisation camp disaster and ascertain facts regarding the deaths of women.

Along with the inquiry, the team also urged the state government to immediately make public the post-mortem examination reports and the laboratory reports on drug analysis.

The recommendations are among the many which have been made by the team from Population Foundation of India, Family Planning Association of India, Parivar Seva Sansthan and Common Health in the report titled, "Robbed of Choice and Dignity: Indian Women Dead after Mass Sterilisation". The report was released here.

Speaking at the report launch, Poonam Muttreja, executive director, Population Foundation of India, said the family planning programme in India has yet to conform to the principles agreed to at the International Conference on Population and Development, especially in terms of doing away with targets and incentives.

"What happened in Bilaspur is happening across the country. Women are not only dying in camps, but also after they come out of the camps. Between 2009 and 2012, 707 women died...The government knows that they died and knows about the unhygienic conditions at such camps," Muttreja said.

While listing the recommendations made for Chhattisgarh and the country by the team that interviewed doctors and support staff involved in the camp as well as the women who had been sterilised, and family members of those women who died, she said compensation packages can only be given to the women going through family planning.

"Right now, the women who motivate, the doctor and all the other health workers get incentives...So it is a collective financial monetary interest to do many more than prescribed (sterilisations) and endangering a woman's life," she said.

"We request the health minister (J.P. Nadda) to ensure that not only incentives are removed, but also the asymmetry of information. Thereby, compromised informed choice can be taken care of," she said.

Muttreja added that no such camps should he held.

The team recommended that spacing methods like oral pills and condoms should be promoted and new methods be added; all officials must be oriented on sterilisation procedures and quality assurance; the drug procurement be strengthened; and vacant posts of doctors be filled and more doctors be trained in the state.

The team found that some of the critical patients admitted at the Apollo Hospital showed raised levels of procalcitonin, suggesting septicaemia.

"Post-mortems of the first seven deaths at the Chhattisgarh Institute of Medical Sciences and a hospital had evidence of peritonitis and septi foci in lungs and kidneys, suggesting septicaemia. These indicate deaths by infection during or after the operation, and not just from spurious medicines as is being made out to be the case," it said in a statement.

It said, according to forensic medicine and toxicology experts, the amount of zinc phosphide required to be lethal for women is 4.5 gm, which is much higher than what could possibly have been consumed by the women in 500 mg of Ciprofloxacin.

"This also strengthens the argument that it was not the medicines alone that caused these deaths," it said. - IANS