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Up to 50,000 Unnecessary Hysterectomies for Women in India (Video)

Up to 50,000 Unnecessary Hysterectomies for Women in India (Video)

Over the last couple of years, researchers have noticed a startling trend in India’s Chhattisgarh state. Many officials began to notice that a high rate of women had hysterectomies in the area, always provided by private clinics. Now the government wants to go after these clinics for abusing a national insurance scheme, which was originally meant to encourage clinics to treat families living below the poverty line.

Instead, officials believe that clinics abused the insurance scheme, which was launched in 2007. According to the BBC, private clinics can receive 30,000 rupees (about $545) for treating a family that lives below the poverty line. Many critics believe that private clinics and nursing homes are guilty of pushing treatments on people in order to receive the monetary benefits from the state.

The most troubling aspect of this story is the high number of women who have received unnecessary hysterectomies over the last two and a half years. Some estimates put the number of women who received this excessive operation over the last 30 months at about 7,000. Over the last five years, officials worry that as many as 50,000 women have had hysterectomies in the state of Chhattisgarh.

News Look began covering this story over a year ago to illustrate the difficulties many women face once they are told they need the hysterectomy. Many women say they arrive at the private clinic asking about an ailment only to be told that they need a hysterectomy or face a high risk of death. As News Look states: “What’s worrying is that 80 percent of the women undergoing surgery are between 20 and 40. These women age faster, with complications caused by hormonal imbalances and osteoporosis.”


Medical Scandal?: India’s Rise in Hysterectomies by NewsLook

Up to 34 private clinics will be investigated and nine practitioners have already faced harsh penalties from government officials. The exact nature of the investigation has not been disclosed, but many government officials believe that state hospitals do not have enough resources, thereby pushing many of these women to seek treatment in the corrupt clinics. One opposition leader in India told the BBC that this system is a “connivance between health department officials and private nursing homes,” thereby robbing people of accessible and reliable health care.

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31 comments

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10:17PM PDT on Aug 7, 2012

Ryan B.,

though you may not have had bad intents, I just wanted to address your comment. If it's the men who can't control their impulses, fixing the women won't do any good. It would require fixing the men...

Just a comment on the video - it's very scary to see all those women's hands go up when ask who has had such an operation done. The fact that it's so common is what makes it scary because it shouldn't be...

11:24AM PDT on Jul 20, 2012

While I am not for forcing any human to do something that they don't want to do, India and other countries in this world are overpopulated and if the men can't control themselves, something needs to be done. Forcing hysterectomies is not the way but maybe paying the women to do it to help with population control since the men can't help themselves? Just a thought, maybe thought of as a sick thought but that is not my intent.

8:46AM PDT on Jul 20, 2012

Laura, Yes, "rarely"... but as I stated before there are exceptions. Also, as I stated before, there are women who do have health consequences but are unaware of the connection. Ignorance on hysterectomies is rampant. For example, you just stated that your mother had a hysterectomy and yet, "She is not even menopausal yet." Which is, of course, impossible. Menopause is when a woman stops menstruating. A woman cannot menstruate without an uterus. Your mother was menopausal the moment her uterus was removed. See what I mean about people not understanding the basics? - And no where did I say a woman shouldn't have the right to choose. All I'm saying is that we need to do a much better job of educating patients AND doctors before such radical surgery.

8:36AM PDT on Jul 20, 2012

@Tess. Interesting. You rarely met a woman without negative effects of a hysterectomy? You should talk to my mother. Removing her uterus (she still has ovaries) was great for her. She is an older woman now (well into her 50s) and is doing great. Best thing she ever did for her health. She is not even menopausal yet. It's been a positive experience for her. Everyone woman is different, and I believe everyone woman should be provided with all information necessary to make informed choice, but most of all they should be able to have those choices honored.

10:44PM PDT on Jul 19, 2012

continued...
If they didn't have the deep orgasms before, they won't realize what they are missing, but those women who did can be emotionally devastated by the loss.

The biggest problem with hysterectomies is that there are no unified consent forms and there are no safety measures in place to make certain that women undergoing hysterectomy and/or oophorectomy are giving fully informed consent. You have to sign more papers and have a better understanding to buy a car or a house than what is needed to consent to a Permanent, life-altering and often life-threatening procedure. This is the real crime.

I learned all this the hard way. Besides my own experience, I have interviewed approx. 2,000 women who have undergone hysterectomies and very rarely do I encounter one who was not surprised by the changes in her body after surgery. Nearly all of the women I have interviewed have suffered some kind of negative health consequences from their surgery. Even those whose lives were saved from more dire circumstances such as cancer.

10:43PM PDT on Jul 19, 2012

continued...

Unfortunately, after a woman is hysterectomized, she no longer needs a gynecologist (specialist in reproductive parts) and all her ensuing health problems are referred to other specialist. Most women continue on with their lives completely unaware that the myriad of health problems she may now have to contend with are related to her hysterectomy.

Rectoceles and vaginal prolapses are common side effects of hysterectomy (much higher rates than those associated with birth complications). These problems can be horrific, and most women who suffer from these side effects do not talk about it with their friends because it is embarrassing and deeply personal. Besides the obvious and not so obvious health issues, there are the consequences to the women's sex lives. If a woman had deep, full orgasms before her surgery, (these involve the cervix and uterus) she will not experience the same type of orgasm after surgery. (An amputated organ can't orgasm.) This can be devastating for a woman who experienced this type of orgasm before and did not understand how she would be changed. A lot of doctors tell women they will experience the same types of orgasms without ever having fully interviewed the woman or having any kind of idea of what her sex life was before. There are women who say they notice no difference, but those women were clearly enjoying only clitoral or vaginal stimulation. If they didn't have the deep orgasms before, they won't realize what they are m

10:42PM PDT on Jul 19, 2012

continued...
What people are not generally aware of is the fact that the ovaries are more than "egg sacks", they are, in fact, endocrine organs that produce various chemicals (hormones) that are utilized throughout the body. Every single cell in your body needs some type of hormone to function. Furthermore, the ovaries continue in their function as endocrine organs for the woman's entire life. Menopause does NOT mean the ovaries have ceased to function. All menopause means is the levels of estrogen have dropped below the levels needed for menstruation.

The life expectancy of a woman is reduced by 10 years if she has had a hysterectomy. When women undergo hysterectomy their risk of dying from a heart attack increases 4 times more than intact women. (Heart attacks are now the number one killer of women in the United States.) The ovaries produce hormones that protect the heart and help to regulate the blood.

The ovaries help protect your bones from osteoporosis. It is not unheard of for a woman with healthy bones to develop osteoporosis within a few months of surgery. These same hormones protect your teeth. Dental problems increase in hysterectomized women.

The eyes also depend on hormones and ophthalmologist have long warned about the dangers hysterectomies pose for women.

Other organs and body parts effected are the skin, hair, immune system, digestive tract, bladder control, thyroid, sleep, cognitive function, memory, hearing ... and more. Unfortun

10:41PM PDT on Jul 19, 2012

continued ...

There are things we now know about the female anatomy that we didn't even know ten years ago, so if your doctor is not aggressively seeking new knowledge and staying on top of the latest, he/she will usually fall back on the "standard level of care" for their area. This is not a good thing.

You might be shocked at how few people even understand the basics, like: hysterectomy technically means the removal of the uterus only. However, every year, literally hundreds of thousands of women consent to hysterectomy without being fully aware that this will most likely include the removal of their ovaries ( called oophorectomy) and cervix. Again, I'm speaking generally, there are always exceptions. The type of surgery a woman receives usually depends on her doctor's personal preferences and surgical skills. Procedures and outcomes vary wildly, depending on the area of the country the woman lives in. (I'm only speaking about the United States in this response.) Women who choose to keep their ovaries (hysterectomy only) run a very real risk of losing their ovarian functions anyway because the ovaries are mainly nourished by the uterine artery which must be severed when the uterus is amputated. Some women have enough auxiliary veins to sustain their ovaries but in more than 50% of women who have hysterectomies, the ovaries will fail within 2 years.

10:40PM PDT on Jul 19, 2012

Robert, Your wife's case is the rare exception, falling into the 10% (actually less according to most stats) of hysterectomies that are necessary. Most hysterectomies in the United States are performed for benign, fibroid tumors. The greater percentage of women suffering from fibroids are in perimenopause and although I am in no way minimizing the suffering, most of the symptoms would go away if the women would continue through natural menopause.

You said, "Most women who are past their childbearing years dismiss conservative methods because of mixed effectiveness and the frequent need for multiple treatments. They ask why they should suffer to retain an organ whose utility has passed and which carries an ongoing cancer risk." This lack of understanding about the truth about hysterectomy and the very real, long term effects is precisely the problem. It is a myth that female reproductive organs have an expiration date or cease utility. Certainly, a woman can survive without her uterus, or ovaries, but the removal of them will not optimize her overall health. (Exceptions for life threatening diseases, of course.) The human body is not designed for any disposable body parts.

One of the biggest challenges in understanding hysterectomy is sorting through all the conflicting theories, studies and standard levels of treatments. The doctors themselves are confused about the facts, which leaves the average patient at a distinct disadvantage. There are things we now kn

9:05PM PDT on Jul 19, 2012

Too many facts missing here.

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