Concern over kidney racket in Kerala

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM NOV. 24 . The People's Health Movement (PHM), a people-oriented global initiative, has expressed concern over the illegal trading of kidneys in Kerala and the effort of the professional body of doctors to protect the culprits.

The illegal transplantation of kidneys by certain hospitals in Kozhikode was one of the issues discussed at the consultative meeting of the PHM held at Savar, Bangladesh, last week.

In a statement faxed here today, the consultative committee said it was scandalous that such activities could go unchecked in a State which had a high reputation for its achievements in the health sector.

What was more shocking was the report that the custodians of the medical profession had colluded in the activity. "The report raises concern about the illegal and unethical practices that are followed in the name of the medical profession in Kerala.

The PHM condemns any activity that misuses medical services and also the individuals in the medical profession who are getting involved in anti-people activities that promote ill-health and violate the ethics of the profession,'' the statement said.

The PHM noted that social factors like equity and social justice had contributed to Kerala's commendable achievements in the health sector.

The health indicators in the State were, in fact, comparable to those achieved by the developed countries.

However, the reports emanating from the State indicate that the medical professional bodies were not maintaining international standards when it came to the issue of medical ethics and professional integrity, it said.

``We are shocked to note the alleged role of the professional body of doctors, the Indian Medical Association (IMA), in the scandal. The IMA's reported efforts to save the erring members of the medical profession are worrying. It should correct its unethical stand,'' the PHM said.

(The PHM made this observation in the context of the allegation that the IMA's State leadership had altered the contents of a report prepared by its own inquiry committee so as to cover up the involvement of certain doctors and hospitals in the kidney trade. The chairman of the inquiry committee himself had openly come out against this cover-up job).

Trading of organs was a major issue currently being addressed by the international medical community. Professional bodies like the World Medical Association, the British Medical Association and the American Medical Association had specified certain standards of ethical practices in the case of organ transplantations.

The IMA should raise itself to these standards to ensure that, as a professional body, it stood for maintaining the reputation of the profession, the PHM said.

Also, given the dynamics of the trade in human organs, the medical profession should observe extra vigil to see that medical rights and human rights of excluded groups like tribals, migrants, refugees and minorities were not violated.

The PHM noted that growing global poverty, inequity and economic deprivation were driving poor people to extreme situations where they became easy victims of exploitation, including the trade in human organs.

There was a dramatic increase in suicides and sale of kidneys among the marginalised sections in the recent times. The Governments should address this growing trend with due seriousness by initiating people-oriented economic policies, the PHM said.

The signatories of the statement include David Sanders (South Africa), Andrew Chetley (United Kingdom), Zafrullah Chaudhury (Bangladesh), Mira Shiva (India), Hugo Icu (Guatemala), Maria Zuniga (Nicaragua), Pam Zinkin (United Kingdom), Carmelita Canila (Malaysia), Melina Auerbach (Canada) and Majuma Saldi (Tanzania).