Sex change surgery performed in Kerala: Complaint against govt hospital alleging lapse in protocol

The first sex reassignment surgery in Kerala performed at Thiruvananthapuram Government Medical College Hospital in January this year had raised hopes among transgenders, but it has turned out to be a nightmare for the person who underwent the surgery.

Sagar (formerly Subhadra) who went for the female to male surgery in the plastic surgery wing of the medical college hospital said that the procedure had endangered his health. He told Firstpost that he could regain his health only after long treatment in a private hospital in Mumbai.

“I had opted for the surgery at the government hospital due to the high cost in private hospitals. But the treatment I needed to rectify the complications caused by the free surgery cost me about Rs 10 lakhs. This is more than the cost of a complete surgery in a private hospital,” said 42-year-old Sagar. He said that he had to sell his house and borrow money from many to meet the expenses involved in the procedure.

Representational image. IBNLive

Representational image. IBNLive

Sagar, who has lodged a complaint with Health Minister KK Shailaja and State Human Rights Commission, said he also had to endure physical and mental hardships as the doctors had allegedly performed 13 surgeries on his body as against three surgeries normally required for sex change.

He alleged that the doctors at the MCH had to perform additional surgeries because they had no training or previous experience in conducting sex reassignment surgeries. None of the members in the team led by head of the plastic surgery division K Ajayakumar had even been associated with such surgeries before, he said.

“They took my body for their experiment. The doctor I consulted in Mumbai told me that the surgery at the Thiruvananthapuram MCH was not done according to protocol. This in turn led to several complications. The strong antibiotics they gave me for the infection caused further serious health issues,” Sagar added.

Ajaykumar has refuted Sagar’s allegations. Sagar might have undergone some procedures conducted for refining his body parts as part of sex reassignment. He said that they had conducted only three surgeries and not 13 as alleged by Sagar.

He told Firstpost that the surgery was performed according to international protocol by a panel of doctors having more than 20 years of working experience. Any expert in plastic surgery can perform sex reassignment surgery. The plastic surgery department in the medical college has been conducting classes on sex change surgeries for the past 50 years.

“We had the required expertise, but we could not do any surgery at MCH as there were no rules for conducting them. We were fully prepared to do the surgery when the laws came into force. We selected Subhadra for the surgery as she pestered us,” Ajaykumar told Firstpost.

He said Subhadra had approached MCH for the surgery 10 years ago. She had mounted pressure on the hospital by taking up the matter with higher authorities several times. The surgery was performed after she was given counselling by the psychiatry wing to adjust to male mentality for five years and hormone therapy for another five years.

“She was educated about every aspect of the procedure and its consequences. She fully understood it and gave her free consent. I feel her present complaint is the result of instigation from certain quarters. It could be even from within. Professional jealousy is everywhere,” the doctor added.

Sagar has strongly denied the allegation. He said there were no external hands behind his complaint. He said that he had lodged the complaint as the surgery had rendered him physically unfit. He said that the surgery had confined him to the bed.

“I had severe pain in my thighs, from which tissues were taken for reconstructing the genital. I had also problem in urinating. I felt this was due to the lapses in the surgery. The treatment in Mumbai has confirmed this. They completely replaced the penis made by the MCH team. I have the medical report to prove my charge,” Sagar said.

He said that he had lodged the complaint not to seek any financial compensation but to ensure that nobody else falls victim to such experiments in future. He said that he was pursuing the matter for the rest of the transgender community, who considered the facility in the medical college as a lifeline.

Chilla Anil, executive director of Chilla, a non-governmental organisation of the transgenders, said that they had looked into Sagar’s complaint and found substance in his allegations. He alleged that the plastic surgery wing had undertaken the surgery without enough home work.

“Usually hospitals set up an ethics committee before launching a new procedure. In this case, no such committee was formed. The government could also send some doctors for training in a hospital were similar surgeries are performed before beginning the surgery in the MCH. If this was done, the surgery would not have failed,” he added.

He said the transgenders in the state had welcomed the initiative as it gave them a cheaper option to change their sex. In the absence of such facility, either in government or private sector in the state, they were forced to go to metros for the surgery.

“Majority of the transgenders who want sex change is poor, who cannot afford to go to Mumbai, Bengaluru or Chennai for the procedure, which takes minimum two years. Moreover, most of them also do not have the support of their families,” he added.

The transgenders have been demanding introduction of the facility in at least government medical colleges to help such people. Interestingly, the state government had last year announced introduction of the facility not only in medical colleges but also in district hospitals in the state.

However, the present controversy has dashed the hopes of the transgenders, who were preparing for sex reassignment surgery at the MCH. A report in Scroll said a survey conducted among the transgenders in the state last year had found that nearly 81 percent of the estimated 25,000 transgenders wished to change their gender identity.

The survey found that as many as 76 percent of the transgenders were reluctant to reveal their actual gender identity because of the fear that they won’t be accepted if their gender identity were revealed. Majority of the transgenders who wish to change their identity reported lack of support for the surgery from any quarters.

Anil has urged the government to review the procedure done at MCH and rectify the mistakes so that transgenders could make use of the facility without fear.

Updated Date: May 03, 2017 22:02 PM

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