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Medical negligence and substandard drugs caused deaths in Indian sterilisation programme, report finds

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h4813 (Published 08 September 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4813
  1. Sanjeet Bagcchi
  1. 1Kolkata

Medical negligence and the distribution of substandard and toxic drugs led to the deaths of 13 women taking part in a government run mass sterilisation programme in India in November 2014, a report has found.

Thirteen women died and a further 14 became seriously ill at the mass sterilisation camp in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, where a 59 year old doctor, R K Gupta, performed laparoscopic sterilisation on 83 women under a government scheme to reduce India’s population growth.1 Each woman undergoing sterilisation was paid an incentive of around Rs1400 (£14; €19; $21).

The Chhattisgarh government set up a judicial commission to investigate the incident, headed by retired district and sessions judge Anita Jha. The commission found that the deaths were due to medical negligence, including the failure to maintain patient safety during laparoscopic surgery and the use of toxic drugs, Anuja Jaiswal reported in the Times of India.2

Jaiswal wrote, “The findings of the judicial commission are mostly on the anticipated lines, as the state government had subsequently cracked down on drug manufacturing companies after some antibiotics were found [to be] substandard and also on doctors who had conducted the surgeries.”

The report will be tabled in the next session of the state assembly, Ajay Chandrakar, Chhattisgarh’s health and parliamentary affairs minister, told the Hindustan Times.3 “The state cabinet has decided that the health department will take strict disciplinary action against the officials of the health and family welfare found guilty,” he said, adding that manufacturer and suppliers of the substandard and contaminated drugs used in the sterilisation camps would also be prosecuted under the legal system.

“The declaration of considering strict legal action against substandard and poisonous drug manufacturers and corrupt health officials is an impressive move, [but] we need to wait and see if any effective actions are taken by the government following the findings of the judicial commission,” Swapan Jana, secretary of the Society for Social Pharmacology in Kolkata, told The BMJ. “While conducting mass sterilisation programmes across the country, the safety of the patients must be ensured first, both from pharmacological and technical perspectives,” he said.

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4813

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