Imagine you’re a woman. Easier for some than others, I know. You’ve got this pear-shaped organ inside you that’s capable of creating and sustaining life and delivering it to the world. It’s amazing(ly terrifying). This organ is so intimately connnected with you that every month you are forced to (reluctantly) acknowledge its existence. This organ and it’s little helpers are the very fundamentals of who you are as a woman.
Now imagine some greedy upstart of a doctor reaching inside you and ripping it out for no good reason.
That’s exactly what private medical practioners in rural India are being accused of doing. It’s a pretty strong claim. But when you have villages with 90% hysterectomy rates (and most of the women under 30), those numbers are hard to explain. It’s hardly likely that 90% of women in one village in rural India fulfil the indications for the removal of their uterus. Yet it happens. And most of the stories are along these lines:
“I went to the clinic because I had heavy bleeding during menstruation,” she says.
“The doctor did an ultrasound and said I might develop cancer. He rushed me into having a hysterectomy that same day.”
That is a really crappy build up to taking someone’s uterus out. You need tests which can prove that yes, there is definitely something going on in your uterus (the gold standard CT scan) and yes, it may quite possibly kill you (biopsy). You need informed consent.
Medical advocates in India are understandably upset about this. But it has been happening for years. When will it stop? Who knows. Maybe when someone with enough power and motive is alerted to the situation. Maybe a charity. Maybe Obama.
But the key issue remains the state of India’s health sector, which is being financially starved by its government. Oxfam reports,
The gap left by the public health system combined with a government policy of proactively promoting the private sector has led to the proliferation of private health providers which are unregulated, unaccountable, and out of control.
Just how pervasive is this practice, and how much work will be needed to ameliorate the situation? Can the Indian government do this on their own? I’m sure there are plenty of tangled socioeconomic issues at play here. But I think it is primarily a problem of standard, and the standard for ethical medical practitioners in India is far too low.