Hospitals remove wombs of thousands of Indian women for insurance claims

According to BBC News India, the Indian government is investigating thousands of cases of doctors forcing unnecessary hysterectomies on Indian women in order to make false insurance claims.

Hysterectomies are the surgical removal of wombs, which renders the patient unable to bear children.

Hysterectomies are usually performed for serious conditions but are usually recommended as a last option as they are known to have surgical risks as well as long-term effects such as premature menopause and vaginal prolapse.

Under a national insurance scheme, private hospitals can claim reimbursements from the government for treating patients who cannot afford expensive procedures. The reimbursements come up to 30,000 rupees (S$686) per family.

At least 34 medical centres have been accused of performing the procedures on more than 2,000 women.

Of these, action is being taken against nine medical practitioners in the state of Chhattisgarh, said the state's Health Minister Amar Agarwal.

All 34 medical centres have yet to comment on the allegations.

BBC reported that the women were from remote rural areas who were looking for help on ordinary medical issues, such as back pain, before they were told horror stories of contracting cancer if their wombs were not removed.

The were then convinced by the doctors into surgery using scare tactics.

The reimbursement scheme has long been subject of controversy, believed to be widely abused by the medical industry since it began in 2007. Critics estimate than more than 7,000 women may have had the unnecessary procedure in the past 30 months, while state opposition claim that more than 50,000 women have had the procedure in the last five years.

yamadak@sph.com.sg

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