Dr. Narendra Gupta, a public health expert conducted a fact-finding on hysterectomies in Dausa District, Rajasthan and collected documentation of similar practices in Bihar and Chhattisgarh. Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) filed the petition in the Supreme Court to ensure compensation for the victims and meaningful policy changes. Fact-finding and media reports from the Respondent states uncovered a widespread pattern of doctors performing medically unnecessary hysterectomies to reap high insurance fees from the government. Moreover, fact-finding investigations in each state found significant gaps in the delivery of healthcare services under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) including, but not limited to, inadequately staffed and unhygienic rural public healthcare centres leading women to seek medical care at private hospitals.
The teams spoke to many of women who, aided by heavily subsidized state-funded health insurance, sought medical care for symptoms including abdominal pain and general weakness at private health facilities only to undergo unnecessary hysterectomy operations after cursory, or in some cases, no medical exams. As Dr. Gupta relayed, “many of the women interviewed in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan were misled into believing that there was an emergency and that the surgery was urgent. They were made to believe that they might get cancer if they did not comply with the doctors’ advice.” In fact, a Right to Information Act (RTI) application filed in the Dausa District of Rajasthan revealed that between April and October 2010, out of a total of 385 operations reported by three private hospitals, 286 of these were hysterectomy operations.
The Supreme Court of India issued notices to the governments of Bihar, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh in the PIL Dr. Narendra Gupta vs. Union of India and Ors., (W.P. (C) 131/2013). The petition prays for an order directing the state governments to provide adequate compensation for the egregious constitutional violations of the women who underwent unnecessary hysterectomies in private hospitals in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan in the past two years. Further, the petition prays that the Respondent state governments be directed to implement monitoring, inspection, and accountability mechanisms for the private healthcare industry.
Additionally, the petition asks for an order requiring the suspension of the involved private doctors by the Indian Council of Medicine as well as criminal proceedings against doctors who engaged in fraudulent healthcare practices. This petition has galvanized activism on this issue. The petition served as an anchor in the national consultation on hysterectomies HRLN held in collaboration with Prayas. As a result of this meeting, questions about hysterectomies will be included in the next National Family Health Survey to provide doctors, activists, and researchers with baseline data.
Attached below is the Petition filed in the Supreme Court