Bihar: Police Register FIR for Botched Cataract Surgeries

At least 15 people had to have their eyes removed after undergoing cataract surgery at a hospital in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district.

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New Delhi: At least 15 people had to have their eyes removed after undergoing cataract surgery at a hospital in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district.

On November 22, as part of a medical camp, health workers operated on at least 65 people to replace their natural eye lenses – which had developed cataracts – with artificial ones. The procedures took place at a private hospital run by a trust. After the surgery, many patients complained of pain in their eyes.

The Bihar state health department and district administration swung into action after local media reports picked up on the complaints. The state formed a three-member team to take a closer look at the surgeries.

PTI reported on December 2 that Vinay Kumar Sharma, the Muzaffarpur civil surgeon – also the district’s health officer – had lodged an FIR on December 2 against 14 people involved with performing the procedures. The Hindi daily Hindustan reported that the people named in the FIR include the hospital management and the doctors employed there.

The FIR mentions sections of the Indian Criminal Procedure Code that pertain to negligence, endangering human life and attempt to murder.

The National Human Rights Commission also issued a notice to the chief secretary of Bihar, Tripurari Sharan, on December 1.

“The doctors may require removing the eyes of about a dozen more patients due to infections after the surgery,” the notice read. “Reportedly, as per medical protocol, a doctor could conduct up to 12 surgeries, but in this case, the doctor conducted surgery on 65 patients.”

Sharan has been asked to furnish details about the exact number of people operated on at the camp, the number of them who subsequently lost their eyes (by extraction or otherwise, following the surgery), the relief the state government has promised them, and the action taken against those responsible for the botched procedures.

The chief secretary has to reply in four weeks.

Sharma, the Muzaffarpur civil surgeon, told The Wire Science on December 3 that “the FIR had been lodged on the basis of a preliminary investigation,” which revealed that “there was contamination at the operation site.” The nature of contamination and the objects affected – “whether equipment, medicine or any other thing” – remain unclear.

“Samples have been collected from the sites and sent for [lab] culture,” which, Sharma added, “will give more details. This does not seem, however, to be an issue of negligence in performing the surgery per se but that of infection that happened due to contamination.”

Indeed, the infection in some of the patients’ eyes was reportedly so acute that doctors at the Sri Krishna Medical College, Muzaffarpur, advised them to have their eyes removed. A few of those affected are still undergoing treatment at this facility.

Another PTI report noted that most of the patients were residents of Muzaffarpur and its adjoining districts, and lived in poverty. It also said that the actual number of patients who underwent surgery might be as high as 250.

Both the PTI report and Sharma also said that the surgeon who performed the procedures had been well-equipped.

The district administration of Muzaffarpur has announced that all patients concerned about suffering from complications due to the surgery have been referred to advanced centres at medical colleges in Patna, and where they will be treated for free.

It also said those who have suffered dire outcomes, such as having their eyes removed, will be suitably compensated. The compensation amount is to be decided.