India’s ‘womb removal insurance scam’ hits headlines worldwide

India’s ‘womb removal insurance scam’ hits headlines worldwide

The Indian state of Chhattisgarh has discovered incidents where doctors have conducted unnecessary ‘womb removal’ procedures on patients in order to make insurance claims. Recent reports suggest that thousands of women have undergone unnecessary hysterectomies in a scam where private hospitals can claim under the terms of a national health insurance scheme for treating patients who cannot afford expensive surgeries.

According to official figures, more than 2000 women were convinced by doctors to remove their uterus in the last six months, having been told that the procedure can cure a range of illnesses from abdominal cramps to back pains.

Out of the 34 medical centres accused of the gross malpractice, none have commented. 22 of these centres have been found to contain evidence suggesting illegitimate surgeries were being carried out.

State health minister Amar Agrawal told Indian newspaper Hindustan Times: “It has become a sensitive and serious problem. We are investigating whether these surgeries were being done just for the money or were genuinely needed. The government will take stern action against those found guilty.”

Victims of the scam have told local newspapers how they were convinced by their doctors that a hysterectomy would cure them of ordinary medical issues, and if not followed through might result in life-threatening illnesses such as cancer. “Panic and fright left us with no option,” said one 31-year-old victim who can never again become a mother.

According to the BBC, state opposition leader Ravindra Chaubey has alleged that these scurrilous operations were the result of “connivance between health department officials and private nursing homes”.

The recent womb removal insurance scam has brought India into the spotlight once again, following a string of scandals witnessed under the UPA coalition government. However, medical practitioners are concerned that this might scare prospective patients who might refuse a hysterectomy when genuinely required.

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