Organ Trafficking in India | India’s Illegal Kidney Trade | Kidney Scandal

Some people know him by the name of Amit Kumar, some know him by the name of Sanjay Raut and some know him as Amit Raut. But his most famous name is “Doctor Horror”. Why? Because he was the man behind the biggest and longest kidney racket in India. This racket operated for over 20 years. During this time, Amit carried out 600 illegal kidney transplants. A lot of people on whom Amit operated are unable to do any work. Meanwhile, he has lived a luxurious life. He lived in Canada in a house with four bedrooms and a swimming pool. The house was worth ~INR 4 crore. He also owned a car worth ~50 Lakhs. He earned the money from the illegal kidney racket. It is not just Amit. India has been a hub of such kidney rackets for a long time.

The Process of Kidney Rackets 

Mohammed Salim Khan, a daily wage worker from Delhi. One day, as usual, he was waiting for a contractor to hire him. A person approached him and asked whether he would like to work for INR 150/day for five months. Mohammed Salim happily agreed. He hoped he would get a job but something else awaited him. 

[“I was unconscious for 3 days.”]

[“When I woke up, I found that there were stitches on my back.”]

[They said we’ve removed your kidney.”]

[“Keep this a secret. We’ll let you leave as soon as you feel better.”]

These kidney rackets dupe a lot of poor people into selling their kidneys. Sometimes, they are forced to sell their kidneys. Like in the case of daily wage worker He owed a sum of 20,000 rupees to a few moneylenders. But when he asked for some extra time to repay this amount, the moneylenders forced him into selling his kidney to repay the loan. It was later found that the moneylenders were a part of an international organ-selling racket. These entire processes of illegal kidney transplants are very elaborate and organized. A few years ago, Tamil Nadu used to be the epicenter for such rackets but now it is Delhi. The rackets involve a web of criminals, including police personnel, doctors, hospital administration staff, and kidney and liver donors.

Mode of Operation

There is usually a mastermind who has his “agents”. These agents are split into two teams One team goes to slums and homeless shelters. These agents roam outside temples and Gurdwara and identify poor people who are in desperate need of money. Then they give poor people an offer—to sell one of their kidneys for lakhs of rupees. In the meantime, another team contacts patients at dialysis centers and Facebook support groups and makes them an offer for the organ. Kidneys are usually sold for anything between INR 70 lakh and INR 1 crore depending on how urgent the need is. Can you guess how much the donor gets? Usually, they only receive INR 3 lakh. The rest of the amount is distributed among those who run the business. These donors who are usually very poor, are also given the training to face the interview board of the Authorisation Committees of the hospitals. Why is there such an interview? It is to ensure that there’s no commercial transaction between the kidney donor and the recipient because selling your kidney for money is illegal in India The transplant is authorized only when the donor and the recipient are related to each other. So, a lot of times, the agents arrange fake identification documents to show that the donor is a close relative of the recipient. The network of these rackets is so dense and sophisticated that sometimes two people involved in the racket often don’t know each other. As I mentioned before, doctors have been involved in the racket themselves. They take advantage of the poor. For example, Sunder Singh exposed the doctors working at LH Hiranandani Hospital who had been running a kidney racket. He said that while he was selling his kidney, the doctors had promised him that his kidney would grow back. Imagine a doctor saying this to a patient. Sometimes even the doctors are not real doctors. Take the same Amit Kumar about whom we talked earlier. He is not a qualified doctor but he was involved in 600 kidney transplants.  

Apart from poverty, what’s another factor causing illegal kidney transplants in India? The answer is a mismatch between demand and supply.

Demand and Supply Mismatch

An estimated 3 lakh people suffer kidney failure every year but, on average, only 8,000-10,000 receive kidney transplants. This means that other 1,90,000 people don’t receive a kidney transplant. Due to the lack of supply, a black market has originated. You might argue that it should be easier for everyone to get a kidney transplant given India’s large population. But it’s difficult due to two reasons. The Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissue Act. This act was introduced in 1994 with the aim to illegalize the sale of human organs. The Act had strict rules regarding who could donate an organ. According to the Act, only parents, children, siblings, and spouses can serve as donors. There’re other factors to be considered to find a suitable donor. For example, the compatibility of blood groups or the age of the donor. Thus, the Act was amended in 2011 to include grandchildren and grandparents as donors. Others can act as donors as well but they need to get approval from the hospital’s Authorisation Committee. This makes things challenging—you can only obtain a kidney from your close relatives and if you’re obtaining it from someone else then there should be no commercial transaction involved. Nobody would donate their kidneys for free. 

Organ Donation

In 2013, 20-year-old Anmol Juneja died in a road accident. He was rushed to a hospital but doctors declared him brain dead i.e., his heart was still beating though his brain had stopped functioning. Thus, his father, Madan Juneja, decided to donate his organs. His organs ended up saving 34 lives. Though Madan Juneja says his family has been scornful about his decision. Why? Because the family believes that Aman was only declared brain-dead but his heart was still beating. He could still have been saved miraculously. In the case of an organ transplant, a brain-dead person’s organs are functional only until their heart is beating. Because once the heart stops beating, the blood circulation stops, which means that organs such as kidneys, liver, lungs, and heart stop functioning and become unsuitable for donation. Only organs like cornea, skin, and bones remain suitable for donation. In fact, in the UK, a person is considered legally dead when they’re brain dead. This is exactly what Anmol’s father was aware of. But his family wasn’t convinced. They might have focused on the spikes in the heartbeats displayed on the monitor. But organ donation can save many lives. In India, nearly 70% of the 1.5 lakh road accident victims are brain-dead. If we’re somehow allowed to harvest their organs, the illegal kidney rackets can be eliminated. There’s one more reason behind this—religion. Aniruddh Kulkarni is an organ transplant coordinator at Mumbai’s Jupiter hospital. He says that in his seven years in the field of organ transplants, he has never been able to convince a Muslim family to donate the organs of dead relatives. This is because violating the human body, whether living or dead, is normally forbidden in Islam. Even some Hindus are hesitant to donate their organs. Some Hindus believe if they donate organs, they’ll be born without one in their next birth. Due to this almost 1.5 lakh people die every year while awaiting organ donation. In India, living donors account for nearly 88% of kidney transplants. Globally, only 36% of kidney transplants are accounted to living donors. 64% of the transplants are accounted for people who’re declared brain dead. In India, the legal consent of a person is needed to harvest their organs in case they suffer brain death. But countries like Singapore, Belgium, and Spain have different laws. There, it’s normally assumed that you have consented to donating your organs unless you’ve chosen to opt out.

Disclaimer – This is not a recommendation or any things everything here is just for knowledge purpose.

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