ARC worried over growing incidents of sterilization complications in women

The Advocating Reproductive Choices (ARC) Coalition has urged the government to ensure adherence to quality of care by orientation and monitoring of the existing guidelines for all health service providers

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New Delhi: Earlier this month seven women complained of infection after undergoing sterilisation procedures in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh. The incident brings back memories from November 2014, when 16 women lost their lives in sterilisation camps in Bilaspur. It is tragic that despite what was considered a stern ruling by the Supreme Court in 2016, one that emphasised on quality of family planning services and care offered and upheld the dignity of women, such an incident has occurred yet again at the same place where the mishap occurred less than three years ago. Such incidents are an alarm for caution, indicating that there still exist gaps in services offered, and lapses in the quality of care that is provided.

This was mentioned in a statement by The Advocating Reproductive Choices (ARC) Coalition that extended its support to the government for greater emphasis on quality of care for family planning services.

“This is not an isolated incident. In another case of gross medical negligence, in July this year, a woman died due to complications after undergoing a sterilisation procedure in the West Singbhum district of Jharkhand. Around the same time, a woman in the Balangir district in Odisha died when the doctor accidentally cut her intestines during the tubectomy surgery. These frequent incidents point to the weak healthcare system in the country,” said the statement.

Sterilisation has been an integral part of India’s Family Planning programme and is the most widely promoted and adopted method across the country, especially, in rural areas. However, the focus on quality, safety and infection prevention is still overlooked at the ground level despite previous missteps and the human cost involved.

At a time when the nation is moving towards implementing a large-scale programme for family planning like the Mission Parivar Vikas (MPV), such incidents may risk and cast a shadow on the entire initiative. India needs to wake up to the fact that the situation on ground is still far from ideal. We are nowhere close to ensuring safety and quality of services for women undergoing sterilisation procedures inspite of the commitment of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The ARC has urged government to ensure adherence to quality of care by orientation and monitoring of the existing guidelines for all health service providers. The doctors and practitioners on-ground, including private practitioners, must be trained properly and sensitised to the need for quality and safety. ARC will continue to support the government in its endeavour to improve quality of services.

“We would also like to emphasise that family planning is not solely a woman’s responsibility, but must include men and their involvement in the decision making. Even the sterilisation procedure cannot be primarily targeted towards women, but must actively involve men as well. Vasectomy is still an easier procedure in comparison with tubectomy and we need to bust the myths and misconceptions that make men reluctant, and the procedure an unpopular one,” mentioned the statement.