Curious Bends – babies for sale, broken AIIMS, male gynaec and more

1. China has a growing online market for abducted babies

“Girls fetch considerably less than boys, but there is still a market for them. Old social patterns have re-emerged in the market, like the sale of girls into a household where they will be servants until they and the son of the house are of age to marry. Most abducted children are sold to new families as a form of illegal adoption, and are increasingly sold online, though some, mostly boys, are also trafficked for forced labour. I recently worked on an asylum case involving a young man forced into begging with a group of children under traffickers’ control in China. He is still so traumatised by the brutal physical punishments inflicted on the boys when they didn’t collect enough money that he can only talk about it in the third person: “they did this to the children”, never “they did this to me”.” (4 min read,

2. Will it improve India’s poor healthcare if more research hospitals like the AIIMS are built?

“Barely 1-2% of the funds allocated to AIIMS, it observed, were being spent on research. As for education, even as India suffered from a lack of doctors, 49% of the doctors trained at AIIMS had “found their vocations abroad”. This staffing shortage was hurting AIIMS itself. Waiting time for surgery ranged between 2.5-34 months. With a high doctor-patient ratio, patients were barely getting four to nine minutes with doctors at the outpatient (OPD) department. The report flagged other shortcomings. AIIMS had failed to lead the modernisation of India’s public health infrastructure. CAG also noted delays in setting up medical centres, irregularities in the purchase of equipment, and so on.” (5 min read,

3. Confessions of an Indian male gynaecologist

“Many of my patients confess that they prefer a male doctor to a female one. I don’t know why. But not every woman who walks into my room is comfortable. There is always a nurse in the room as I am scared that some woman will level baseless allegations over the physical examination. Unlike men, women have many health problems. Seeing all that they go through has made me respect them. My wife says I am more like a woman. That I have too much compassion.” (2 min read,

4. Personalising cancer care, one tumour at a time

“Mitra’s CANScript has gone a step further. A simpler analogy would be the bacteria sensitivity tests that are commonly used today. Just as a pathology lab takes a swab, cultures it and tests it against all available antibiotics to finally help a doctor prescribe the right antibiotic, CANScript runs a test against the biopsy from the patient and gives a score card for the drugs to be used. In clinics it is currently used in six solid tumors (breast cancer, gastrointestinal, glioblastoma, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma and colorectal) and two blood cancers. Three other cancers – lung, cervical and melanoma—are under lab testing. However, the limitation with CANScript is that it requires very fresh tumour.” (5 min read,

5. What your bones have in common with the Eiffel Tower

“So how did Eiffel design a structure that’s strong enough to withstand the elements, and yet weighs about as much as the air surrounding it? The secret lies in understanding the shapes of strength. It’s a lesson we can learn by looking inwards… literally. By studying our bones, we can discover some of the same principles that Eiffel used in designing his tower.” (11 min read,

Chart of the Week

“Now there are nine powers, and the kind of protocols that the cold-war era America and Soviet Union set up to reassure each other are much less in evidence today. China is cagey about the size, status and capabilities of its nuclear forces and opaque about the doctrinal approach that might govern their use. India and Pakistan have a hotline and inform each other about tests, but do not discuss any other measures to improve nuclear security, for example by moving weapons farther from their border. Israel does not even admit that its nuclear arsenal of around 80 weapons (but could be as many as 200) exists. North Korea has around ten and can add one a year and regularly threatens to use them. The agreements that used to govern the nuclear relationship between America and Russia are also visibly fraying; co-operation on nuclear-materials safety ended in December 2014. America is expected to spend $350 billion on modernising its nuclear arsenal over the next decade and Russia is dedicating a third of its fast-growing defence budget to upgrading its nuclear forces. In January this year the Doomsday Clock was moved to three minutes to midnight, a position it was last at in 1987.” (3 min read,