Mumbai, India — Organ trafficking is huge business in India, wherein kidneys are extracted from poor villagers and sold off to rich patients. This week, Mumbai police arrested five top doctors, including the CEO and medical director of Mumbai’s elite Dr. L H Hiranandani Hospital, for their alleged involvement in the organ harvesting business.
The police snooped into the racket after it received an anonymous tip-off from a hospital worker. In July, the police unearthed a scam involving a poor woman who had undergone transplant surgery and suspiciously listed on records as having donated her kidneys to her husband. It was later revealed that the impoverished villager hailing from Gujarat had no relation to the man.
According to the Indian law, only closely related individuals can donate kidneys to the ones in need. Organ buying and selling is strictly disallowed and punishable under law with imprisonment and fines up to Rs25 lakh (approx. $37,000 USD). Unrelated people can donate kidneys too but it needs government approval so that it is deemed on record that no money was involved for the donation. The other option is to source kidneys from brain-dead patients, subject to the permission of the families, or from cadavers.
While L. H. Hirandani Hospital in its statement stated that it has asked Ernst & Young to conduct a formal investigation to conduct an audit and look into the transplant operations, the police have enough data to officially state that organ trafficking is occurring at a rapid rate throughout the country.
A few weeks before arrests at L H Hospital, the Gujarat police arrested Santosh Raut, an ayuvedic practitioner, the alleged mastermind who has a huge international network responsible for carrying out more than 1000 illegal kidney transplants across India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nepal. In fact, the Hiranadani racket is reported to be a part of his network. Raut who has a record of being arrested on two instances, escaped from jail, this week.
In June, the prestigious Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in New Delhi was also involved in the kidney trafficking case. It came to light that agents had forged documents to show that donors were selling their kidneys to the rightful recipients. The donors were paid Rs300,000 ($4500), while their kidneys were then resold in black market for huge profits.
The black market for kidney trafficking in India thrives because there is a huge demand for transplants compared to the supply. Some agents make millions of rupees by charging huge sums of money from recipients and paying meagre amounts to the donors from poor villages.