Mumbai: Meerut-based nephrologist Sandeep Kumar Garg’s cell phone has been buzzing non-stop since September last year. The callers have one query: are there kidneys available for sale?
That is not all. A hoax message sent out from Dr. Garg's number that has gone viral talks about the availability of four kidneys from a couple who met with an accident and have been declared brain dead.
This may well be the mother of all hoaxes, but to Dr. Garg, it is symptomatic of a deeper malaise: a lack of awareness of organ donations and hospital protocols.
Dr. Garg told The Hindu on Monday that on some days, he has had as many as 500 missed calls. “There are several versions of the message with my number in them. I don’t know who has done this,” says an incredulous Dr. Garg, who is attached to Anand Hospital on Garh Road, Meerut, and is part of its transplant team. “I have given a written complaint to the Medical College police station in Meerut, but they have not investigated the matter,” says Dr. Garg.
He claims that several people have messaged on his number stating they can spend any amount of money to buy the organs. “I have handed over the phone to one of my employees, and asked him to pick up only calls from numbers saved on my phone. I have started using my alternate number.”
Officials from the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO) have called Dr. Garg to inquire about the message. Says NOTTO’s director Dr. Vimal Bhandari, “Such messages always turn out be hoax. But the police should treat them seriously and investigate where they are originating from. Till the investigating authorities do so, they will continue to spread.”
There could be two factors underlying such messages: a clear lack of awareness and agents who lure patients in need of transplants.
Says Dr. S.K. Mathur, vice-president of Zonal Transplant Coordination Committee, Maharashtra, “There could be more to the mischief. The police should investigate such messages thoroughly.” While awareness of organ donation has increased over the past few years, not everyone understands how it is done, because of which such messages are forwarded often, he says.