CHENNAI: At least 23 doctors across Tamil Nadu have been booked in the last three years for sex-selective abortions, sex determination and other violations under the pre-natal diagnostic act.
The doctors are facing trial under several laws that spell out jail terms and fines as punishment. The state medical council has debarred one of the doctors.
In February, the state medical council temporarily barred a Neyveli-based gynaecologist from practicing medicine following complaints from the Directorate of Medical Services. “This February we booked four cases. While most doctors were booked for poor record keeping, some doctors were booked for more serious offences such as illegal abortions,” said director of medical services S Mani.
Last year, doctors at Dharamapuri Medical College tipped off health inspectors about a patient who came in with severe bleeding after a quack in the area attempted medical termination. The quack was arrested by the police, but investigations showed that Dr Usha of GG Ultra Sound Scan in Tirupattur had informed the patient about the sex of the fetus.
Officials have intensified surveillance in the last one year after Census figures recorded a wide gap in child sex ratio and sex ratio at birth.
Child sex ratio – the number of girls per 1,000 boys in the age group 0-6 years – in TN fell from 946 in 2011 to 943 in 2015.
While the preference for male children in many societies is well-known, in Tamil Nadu, particularly in districts like Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, Salem, Namakkal, Perambalur and Cuddalore, sex ratio is skewed. Cheap technology such as ultrasound has made it possible for people to determine the sex of fetus and terminate pregnancy.
In February, the state medical council temporarily barred Dr K Ramachandran of Mahalakshmi Nursing Home in Neyveli from practicing medicine after an inspection found him wheeling in a woman for sex-selective abortion. “The woman was told that she was having a baby girl, given pills for abortion and then taken to the theatre for abortion when we caught him. We have seized equipment including ultrasound and documents. The case is being heard by a Neyveli court,” said a senior official who was part of the inspection team. The officials referred his case to the state medical council, and based on the investigation by the disciplinary committee, the general council decided to remove his names from the medical register until further orders. State medical council president K Senthil said the council would debar doctors up to two years if found guilty of sex determination and sex selective abortion. “That’s for the first offence. They will be debarred permanently in case of a repeat offence,” he said
When a central investigation team visited the state, it found an Athur-based Dr Dhamayanthi of Saravana Scan Centre using an unregistered ultrasound machine hidden in the operation theatre. The act mandates doctors to register all ultrasound machines. In September 2015, the health authorities sealed one such machine for violations including poor maintenance of patient records. In February, this team received information that the doctor was clandestinely screening pregnant women. “We do not know if she determined sex or aborted children, but using an unregistered machine is a gross violation,” said a senior official.