India sterilization program leaves 12 women dead

83 surgeries conducted within 6 hours, says state chief medical officer Dr. S.K. Mandal

At least 12 Indian women are dead and 20 others seriously ill Wednesday after undergoing free sterilization operations, highlighting the risks women face in reproductive health in a country struggling with high population growth and widespread poverty.

A total of 83 women, all villagers under the age of 32, had the operations Saturday as part of the free sterilization campaign and were sent home that evening. But dozens later became ill and were rushed in ambulances to private hospitals in Bilaspur, a city in central Chhattisgarh state.

By Wednesday morning, at least 12 women had died, District Magistrate Siddharth Komal Pardeshi told Press Trust of India.

The apparent cause of death was either blood poisoning or hemorrhagic shock, which occurs when a person has lost too much blood, state deputy health director Amar Singh said, though the preliminary results from autopsies were expected to be released Wednesday.

About 20 others were in critical care, and the central government was rushing a team of doctors to Bilaspur to help with their treatment.

“Their condition is very serious. Blood pressure is low,” said Dr. Ramesh Murty at CIMS hospital, one of the facilities where the sick women were taken. “We are now concentrating on treating them, not on what caused this.”

India’s government — long concerned about pervasive poverty among its rapidly growing 1.3 billion population— performs millions of free sterilizations to both women and men who want to avoid the risk and cost of having a baby. The vast majority of patients, however, are poor women — paid a one-time incentive fee to undergo the surgery of about $10-$20 US, or the equivalent of about a week’s pay for a poor person in India. About 180 million people in the country still live on less than $1.25 a day.

India has one of the world’s highest rates of sterilization among women, with about 37 per cent undergoing such operations compared with 29 per cent in China, according to 2006 statistics reported by the United Nations. During 2011-12, the government said 4.6 million Indian women were sterilized.

Incentive payments, sterilization quotas criticized

Activists blame the incentive payments, as well as sterilization quotas set by the government, for leading health authorities to pressure patients into surgery rather than advising them on other forms of contraception.

“These women have become victims because of the target-based approach to population control,” said Brinda Karat of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, who has demanded that the state’s health minister resign.

India has one of the world’s worst records on maternal health care, with 200 women dying during pregnancy or childbirth for every 100,000 patients, compared with China’s 37 deaths for every 100,000 women who give birth. Its infant mortality rate — 63 of every 1,000 newborns die — also makes it one of the worst places on Earth to be born. By comparison, China records about 15 infant deaths for every 1,000 births.

The women who underwent surgery on Saturday were each paid about $10, and all 83 surgeries were performed within six hours, the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. S.K. Mandal, told the Associated Press by telephone.

“That is not usual,” he said, but declined to comment further until the autopsies had determined exactly what went wrong.

The state suspended four government doctors, including the surgeon who oversaw the operations and the district’s chief medical officer.

“It appears the incident occurred due to negligence” by doctors, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said, before urging patience for the autopsy results. He also said the victims’ families would each receive a compensation payment of about $6,600.

Vasectomies rare in India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Myanmar, where he was on an official visit, that he had spoken with Singh and urged a thorough investigation.

Meanwhile, the state’s surgeons held an emergency meeting Tuesday night to discuss whether to continue with the state’s sterilization schedule, with a target of 180,000 for the year ending in March set by the central government, Mandal said. They also were discussing surgery practices and guidelines, he said.

The World Health Organization advises that a patient be monitored for 48 hours after undergoing laparoscopic, or “keyhole,” sterilization surgeries like those conducted in Bilaspur. The procedure is one of the most commonly performed, minimally invasive surgeries, and is usually done under local anasthetic.

A spokeswoman for the federal Health Ministry declined to confirm whether the central government was setting sterilization quotas. India’s central government had said it stopped setting targets for sterilizing women in the 1990s.

India was one of the first countries to introduce family planning as a government program in the 1960s, when the country’s population was less than half what it is today at about 450 million. But outrage erupted in the 1970s after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed a policy of forcibly sterilizing men who had already fathered two children. Opponents at the time said the program also targeted unmarried and poor men, with doctors given bonuses for operating on low-income patients. Since then, vasectomies have been relatively unpopular in India, with only about 1 per cent of men opting for the procedure.

© The Associated Press, 2014The Canadian Press

Alberta Primetime: TONIGHT!

Leilani Muir & Rob Wilson will be on CTV 2 in Edmonton on Wednesday night at 6pm and 11pm MST talking with Shawna Randolph about Leilani’s book *A Whisper Past: Childless in Alberta after Eugenic Sterilization* & about the launch of the Eugenics Archives (eugenicsarchive.ca) multimedia site. Check out http://albertaprimetime.com/ and answer their question there: In your words, why is it so important to remember Alberta’s eugenics policy?cropped book cover

Living Archives Interactive Website World Wide Release

The Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada has launched the ‘long awaited’ website on Friday Oct 24, 2014. You can explore the website now by typing in this URL: http://eugenicsarchive.ca/

BIG thanks to the technical team, Natasha Nunn (Tech team lead), Ben McMahen, and Colette Leung! Numerous Living Archives team members have contributed to the content.

In the weeks to come the site will be filled with more content as articles are still being returned from reviews and a few section are stil be worked on.

Please share the website and watch for new additions to come!

Alberta Eugenics Awareness Week (AEAW) 2014 ~ Oct 17 – Oct 26, 2014

This year, the final AEAW, the calendar of events includes 14 opportunities to participate – Join us!

Alberta Eugenics Awareness Week (AEAW) 2014 ~ Oct 17 – Oct 26, 2014

Friday Oct 17 – Team Meeting, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada. 2-02A Assiniboia Hall (9:00 am – 11:30 am) then continues from 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm.

Friday Oct 17 – Persons’ Day Panel: Eugenic Survivors Share their Stories. Panelists: Leilani Muir, Judy Lytton, Glenn Sinclair. Noon – 1:00 pm. Henderson Hall, Rutherford South. Free & Wheelchair accessible.

Friday Oct 17 – Disintegration by CRIPSiE (Colloboravtive Radically Integrated Performers Society in Edmonton) performances by people with disabilities at PCL Theatre 10330 – 84 Ave, tickets at the door ($15 or what you can pay) 8:00 pm

Saturday Oct 18 – Team Meeting, Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada, 2-02A Assiniboia Hall (9:00 am – 2:00 pm). Lunch provided RSVP to moyra@ualberta.ca by Noon Oct 15.

Saturday Oct 18 – Disintegration by CRIPSiE (Colloboravtive Radically Integrated Performers Society in Edmonton) performances by people with disabilities at PCL Theatre 10330 – 84 Ave, tickets at the door ($15 or what you can pay) 8:00 pm

Monday Oct 20 – Surviving Eugenics in the 21st Century: Our Stories Told. Daytime showing for students and those who can not attend the evening. (doors at 11:15 am/film at 12:00 pm ) followed by a short discussion by people featured in the film. Metro Cinema at the Garneau, 8712 – 109 Street NW, Edmonton. Trailer: http://youtu.be/ysys-1bQQ9g; closed captioned. ASL interpretation available – contact Moyra; wheelchair access through the alley entrance. FREE!

Monday Oct 20 – Surviving Eugenics in the 21st Century: Our Stories Told Evening Show, with Q&A and a reception, (doors at 6:15 pm/film at 7 pm) Metro Cinema at the Garneau, 8712 – 109 Street NW, Edmonton. Trailer: http://youtu.be/ysys-1bQQ9g; closed captioned. ASL interpretation available – contact Moyra; wheelchair access through the alley entrance. FREE!

Tuesday Oct 21 – Across Communities Together (ACT) 2014: A Workshop for Connections & Change (9:00 am – 4:00 pm) By invitation. Co-sponsored with the Self Advocacy Federation (SAF).

Wednesday Oct 22 – Rob Wilson, The Role of Oral History in Surviving a Eugenic Past (12:00 pm – 1:00 pm) Tory Breezeway 2, Co-sponsored with the Department of History & Classics, University of Alberta. Free & Accessible.

Thursday Oct 23 – Colloquium, Eugenics and Philosophy, Panelists: Rob Wilson, University of Alberta, Josh St. Pierre, University of Alberta, (3:30 pm – 5:00 pm) 2-02A Assiniboia Hall. Free & Accessible.

Friday Oct 24 – Living Archives Interactive Website Release, 331 CAB (12:00 pm– 1:00 pm). Technical Team Lead Natasha Nunn along with Ben McMahon, Colette Leung, and Rob Wilson will demonstrate the website features and highlight the interactive aspects of the website. Participants can follow along and explore the site at computers throughout the demonstration. Free & Accessible.

Friday Oct 24 – Difference & Diversity: An Evening of Performances, featuring local artists, and performers. Education North 4-104. Doors at6:30 pm, performances at 7:00 pm. Free & Accessible. ASL interpretation available – contact Moyra.

Saturday Oct 25 – Sins Invalid, a film. Witness a performance project that incubates & celebrates artists with disabilities. CCIS 1 140 (Doors at 2:30, film at 3:00 pm) followed by a Q&A with Patty Berne via Skype. Co-sponsored with the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre. Free & Wheelchair accessible, ASL Interpretation available – contact Moyra

Sunday Oct 26 – Writing the Wrongs: Alberta Authors Tell Our Eugenic Story – Three local writers: Leilani Muir, A Whisper Past (non-fiction); Theresa Shea, The Unfinished Child (fiction); David Cheoros, The Invisible Child (drama). Readings and reception (1:00 pm – 3:30 pm) Location TBA – contact Moyra. Free & Accessible.

ASL Interpretation can be arranged for any event by contacting moyra@ualberta.ca (780-248-1211) prior to the event.
Events are OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!

Introducing the “Did I Stutter?” blog

Earlier this year, Josh St. Pierre and Zach Richter started the very cool website and blog “Did I Stutter?”.  For and about people who stutter, and run by two savvy PWSs, the blog should get some attention from those reading Living Archives / What sorts posts.  With the most recent post, “Eugenics and the Cure for Stuttering”, Josh makes some of the connections here more overt:

Being from Alberta and knowing about our shameful eugenic history colours the search for a stuttering cure for me. As well intentioned as it may seem, a “cure” for stuttering cannot be separated from the idea and practise of eugenics that assumes the world would be a better place without disability, without us. We already screen for Down Syndrome since we have decided some lives are more valuable than others. In 20 years might we screen foetuses for stuttering?

You can read the whole post here .

Out from Under: Now a New Home

Great news that the awesome exhibit, Out From Under, will now be a permanent feature of the New Canadian Museum for Human Rights.  I visited the exhibit with the curators in 2008 at the ROM in Toronto, and it was a great experience.  Congratulations, Catherine, Melanie, and Kathryn.