NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - India's minister for women said on Wednesday she would seek to regulate Caesarean sections and "name and shame" gynaecologists who dupe women into choosing surgery over natural birth for commercial gain.
Although there are no national figures on the number of C-sections performed in India, Minister for Women Maneka Gandhi said she believed it was much higher than in other countries and urged private hospitals to release their surgical data.
"The normal Caesarean delivery rate in a country would not be more than 10 percent, because it is usually done as a last resort. In this country, it is extremely high because it brings the doctor more money," said Gandhi.
"We have entered into an area, very sorry to say, in the last 20 years, where doctors care more about money than about patients' health. We would like the hospitals to display data on how many Caesarean section deliveries they have done."
Gandhi made the comments after being presented with a petition signed by almost 135,000 people on Change.org. highlighting concerns over practice in private hospitals. here
The petition calls for all hospitals to declare Caesarean delivery rates, for the government to investigate those with unusually high rates and for it to issue guidelines to better safeguard the health of mother and child.
World Health Organization norms prescribe that C-section deliveries should ideally be 10-15 percent of the total number of deliveries in a country.
But latest government data show rates in some Indian states are much higher. The rate of C-section deliveries in private hospitals tops 70 percent in the eastern state of West Bengal and is almost 75 percent in the southern state of Telangana. here
"We would like to name and shame gynaecologists who do Caesarean deliveries for no reason at all, except money," said Gandhi. "This is not correct. We will take it up with the health ministry and see how we can regulate this."
The petitioner Subarna Ghosh - who suffered a painful recovery and said she was given false assurances about surgery - said Caesareans had become a business in Indian hospitals.
"I am not anti-Caesarean deliveries. Through my petition on Change.org, I wish to highlight the commercialisation of C-sec deliveries," Ghosh said in a statement.
"The right of women to exercise informed consent is being over-ridden by this dangerous trend. Women need to be made aware of the C-section percentages of different hospitals and maternity homes, so that they can choose their hospitals carefully."
(Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)