Drug firm head held over India surgery deaths

Director of company that allegedly supplied medication to women who died after mass sterilisation arrested in Raipur.

    Drug firm head held over India surgery deaths
    At least 13 women died and other are still being treated in Chhattisgarh state after undergoing operations [EPA]

    Indian police have arrested the director of a drug-manufacturing firm which allegedly supplied medication to women in a mass sterilisation that left 13 dead in central Chhattisgarh state.

    India's PTI news agency reported that Ramesh Mahawar of Mahawar Pharma Pvt Ltd and his son were arrested and charged with fraud on Friday.

    OP Pal, police superintendent of Raipur, told PTI the men were arrested on the complaint of food and drug administration officials.

    A total of 83 women underwent surgical operations as part of a government-run campaign on Saturday and were sent home that evening.

    Dozens became ill and were taken to hospitals, where at least 13 of them died. Many others are still being treated.

    Dr RK Gupta, who authorities said performed all the operations in six hours in a breach of government protocol that prohibits surgeons from performing more than 30 sterilisations in a day, was arrested on Wednesday.

    He blamed tainted drugs for the deaths.

    Authorities were investigating whether fake antibiotics and pain-killers were responsible. No autopsy details have been made available.

    Lack of medical oversight

    The government of Chhattisgarh, where the deaths took place, has appointed a retired judge to head a probe into the deaths, a government statement said on Friday.

    Experts say the deaths are the result of a lack of medical oversight in India's broken public-health system and sterilisation targets set by the Indian government as part of its efforts to control its booming population.

    India says it stopped setting targets for sterilising women in the 1990s.

    But doctors and human-rights workers say targets still exist and lead to coercion in villages where most people have limited access to education and health-care.

    Sterilisations continue to be the most popular method of birth control in India, with many women opting for them because a one-time operation can help them take charge of their fertility.

    But incentives and government quotas cause doctors to pressure patients into surgery rather than advising them on other contraception options, AP news agency reported.

    India has one of the world's highest rates of sterilisations among women, with about 37 percent undergoing such operations. About 4.6 million Indian women were sterilised in 2011 and 2012, according to the government.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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