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June 28, 2017

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Many women get hysterectomies for money: researcher

TAIPEI, Taiwan --Of the more than 20,000 women in Taiwan that voluntarily go under the knife to have their uteri and ovaries removed every year, many simply want to secure pecuniary compensations from the Labor Insurance Fund, a researcher said yesterday.

Most of the women who ask for medically unwarranted hysterectomies and get them are in their 40s and 50s, Hsien-Ming Lien (連賢明), a professor at National Chengchi University, was quoted in a report in the Friday, Jan. 17 edition of the Chinese-language United Evening News. The report calls Taiwan a country with the largest percentage of "womb-less women" in the female population.

Many of them have done so because they wanted to bring in additional money to help family finances, Lien told a recent meeting of government officials, medical experts, and representative of women advocacy groups. The meeting was called by the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) to address the issue.

Lien called on the government, the CLA in particular, to review the regulations in order to prevent further abuses.

Under current Labor Insurance regulations, women who have a hysterectomy before they turn 45 can apply to the Labor Insurance Fund for infertility benefits amounting to more than NT$100,000 each.

According to the Bureau of Labor Insurance, which oversees the Labor Insurance Fund, it honors 31,000 disability claims every year, of which about 6,700, or 20 percent, are infertility claims that cost the government NT$900 million on top of medical expenses.

Women 45 years of age or older, however, are not eligible for such benefits.

Lien, who has conducted a survey on the issue, said "44 years old is an obvious cut-off point," meaning the majority of cases involve women 44 years of age or younger.

The latest Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) figures show four out of every 1,000 women in Taiwan have undergone the surgery, compared to 3.29 per 1,000 in South Korea, 2.43 per 1,000 in Finland, 1.77 per 1,000 in Germany, 1.04 percent per 1,000 in the United States, and 0.26 per 1,000 in the United Kingdom, Lien said.

In 2010, a total of 1,103 45-year-old women had a hysterectomy in Taiwan, while about 3,300 women one or two years younger had the same surgery, according to the UEN report.

A downturn in the economy may also lead to a surge in the number of women seeking such a procedure, according to the UEN report.

In 2009, when the whole world was embroiled in the infamous financial tsunami, the total number of 43- and 44-year-old women who had their uteri and ovaries removed surgically was 3,593, an all-time high.

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