Andhra Pradesh

Kidney racket probe exposes hospital-middlemen links

DMHO Dr. S. Tirupati Rao and Superintendent of KGH Dr. Arjuna conducting an inquiry at Shraddha Hospital into the alleged kidney racket in Visakhapatnam on Monday.

DMHO Dr. S. Tirupati Rao and Superintendent of KGH Dr. Arjuna conducting an inquiry at Shraddha Hospital into the alleged kidney racket in Visakhapatnam on Monday.  

Police say the poor are lured to sell their organs for money

In 2014, a big corporate hospital in the city had come under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate when a case of alleged illegal organ (kidney) transplantation had surfaced.

This case was an eye-opener to the people not only in this city but also neighbouring districts and States such as Chhattisgarh and Odisha, as Vizag is considered to be the medical hub in this region.

In 2018, PM Palem registered a case against two persons who were caught allegedly trying to lure poor people from JNNURM colonies to donate their kidneys for a sum.

A few days ago, another corporate hospital had come under the scanner for reported illegal kidney transplantation and the initial investigations clearly point to a nexus between a few corporate hospitals and middlemen, in the organ transplant racket.

‘Well-oiled network’

A senior police officer, who investigated the case in 2015, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that a few corporate hospitals that conduct organ transplant surgeries have a well-oiled network with middlemen in Visakhapatnam and other cities such as Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Srikakulam and Raipur.

The moment a person with an ailment that requires a transplant approaches them the middlemen are alerted and they get in touch with the patient and promise a donor, he said.

Peanuts for donors

As per the police, in the cases that have come up so far, it is seen that the deal with the patient is struck for a very high price ranging from ₹25 to ₹35 lakh or even more depending on the financial background of the patient, but the amount paid to the donor ranges between ₹3 lakh and ₹5 lakh.

“The margin of profit is high and that makes the racket lucrative. The spoils are shared between the doctors, the hospitals and the middlemen,” said the officer.

“There are a few cases in the various JNNURM colonies in the city, where people have sold one of their kidneys for a price between ₹4 and ₹5 lakh. The job of a middleman is to identify such vulnerable candidates and then sweet-talk them into selling their kidney,” said Pragada Vasu of Association of Urban and Tribal Development (AUTD), an NGO.

New trend

Kidney transplants in India first started in the 1970s, and was limited only to the big cities. It is only now that cities like Visakhapatnam have come to the forefront.

To curb malpractices, the Transplantation of Human Organ Act (THO) was passed in 1994.

As per the Act, organs cannot be sold and can be donated only by the patient’s relatives, said the Vice-Chancellor of Dr. NTR University of Health Sciences.

“Initially, organs could be transplanted only from a brain-dead person. But later, it was relaxed to accommodate blood relatives or close family friends. But it has to be proved to the Authorisation Committee,” said Dr. C.V. Rao.

To regulate malpractices, the Government advised the formation of Authorisation Committees in each State and Union Territories, with its role being to certify if the donor is suitable, and if there are no financial implications.

“In A.P., there are three such committees in Visakhapatnam, Guntur and Kurnool, and each committee is headed by the superintendent of the biggest Government General Hospital, like in Visakhapatnam it is the Superintendent of KGH,” said the V-C of NTRUHS.

Forged cases

In all the cases unearthed so far, approval seems to have been bypassed and the documents of the donors, such as Aadhaar, were forged to prove that the donors were relatives, said MR Peta Police Station Inspector Kesava Rao, who is investigating the Sraddha Hospital case.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 7:27:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/kidney-racket-probe-exposes-hospital-middlemen-links/article27131503.ece

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