Mon, 11 Dec, 2023

Profit over People

By Shrijak Shrestha

In the recent weeks, the sterilization surgeries, which are considered to be a part of a decade long Indian government program to curb population, were conducted in the state of Chhattisgarh of India. It resulted in the deaths of 13 women and hospitalization of more than 60 women. During the surgeries, the women were operated in mobile health camps run by the government and were paid 1400 Indian rupees each. The deaths of women after undergoing sterilization operation in India may be due to spurious medication as indicated by postmortem examination of the victims. Initially, the reasons for the deaths and complications were believed to be the infections contracted during the tubal litigation surgeries in the poorly sanitized health camps. The operating surgeon Dr. R.K. Gupta was arrested after the deaths with charges of negligence and culpable homicide. He pleaded his innocence and blamed the deaths on the medications provided to the patients. The victims were given Ciprofloxacin pills, manufactured by the Mahawar Pharmaceuticals, after their surgeries. A local man, who was given the same batch of Ciprofloxacin as medication, died on Thursday. According to Dr. Ashutosh Tiwari, the head of the hospital where the man died, seven more people fell ill after taking the same batch of Ciprofloxacin. This directs us to wonder “Should pharmaceuticals or the government be held responsible for these deaths?” The sterilization initiative in India has received many criticisms for focusing on female sterilization instead of promoting non-surgical birth control and a much less risky male sterilization. Why did the Indian government choose the comparatively riskier method even though they had other less risky methods at hand? This is also thought provoking. Further, the government providing cash incentives to medical personnel and patients for female sterilization has led to many doctors carelessly carrying out more operations for greater profit at the expense of the patient’s safety. An example of this can be the act portrayed by Dr. Gupta. Even though the government allowed only 30 procedures a day, he operated on more than 80 women on the day of sterilization. This somehow makes the public feel that he is also at fault, whatever his reasons might be, whether to amass more profit or to finish the sterilizations well before time. These recent events have shed light on the two major problems faced by India. First problem is of counterfeit medication. India has one of the highest cases of production and distribution of counterfeit medication. Annually, a high number of deaths are linked to expired and spurious medications. The Indian drug regulatory agency has been powerless in regulating and controlling the pharmaceutical industry. The other problem is the poor management of health services.  A huge proportion of government run health services are inconsistent with poor infrastructure and corrupt medical personnel. This problem is more prevalent in the rural regions. Many deaths occur annually in government health camps and hospitals due to negligence, poor infrastructure and poor management, but are not or rarely reported. Nepal faces similar problems. The Nepalese government has so far been inconsistent in tackling these problems. If problems like these are not addressed well on time, they might grow and take a dreadful shape later. The Nepalese government, keeping into consideration the recent incident that occurred in India, needs to gear up and start finding and resolving any and all critical issues with regards to health.