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CBI to probe kidney racket

The Centre wants a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the Gurgaon kidney transplant racket, reports Sanchita Sharma.

india Updated: Jan 30, 2008 02:52 IST
Sanchita Sharma

The Centre wants a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the Gurgaon kidney transplant racket, which, it suspects, is spread across the country. And to prevent similar rackets and ensure transparency, the government has also decided to set up a Central Registry for Organ Transplantation, which will maintain online medical records of all transplants.

“We have asked the CBI to do a detailed investigation as the kidney racket seems to involve different states. They will also examine how extensive the problem is and how foreign patients are sought out to buy organs illegally in the country,” said Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss on Tuesday.

A CBI probe into this case will need the permission of the Haryana government. Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said in Chandigarh he did not have any objection.

An Interpol alert has been issued for racket mastermind Dr Amit Kumar, who is suspected to have fled to Nepal. Kumar’s e-mail account had 48 requests for donors from both India and abroad, mostly from Greece. Three other doctors who worked with Dr Kumar are also missing.

“Since doctors doing transplants are sometimes involved in illegal activities, medical details of all organ transplants will have to be posted online,” Ramadoss said. “Transplant surgeons and doctors will also not be allowed on the hospital authorisation team that approves each transplantation as they may have a vested interest in giving the surgery a go-ahead even if everything is not above board.”

The Union health ministry had proposed amendments to the Transplantation of Human Organs Act last year. The problem, said joint secretary Vineet Chawdhry, is that many of the clinics doing illegal transplants are unauthorised and do not follow any safeguards.

Health secretary Naresh Dayal said, “The doctor involved in the current racket had many aliases, so we don’t even know under which name he is registered to practice medicine. The Clinical Establishment Act tabled in Parliament in the 2007 monsoon session proposes to regulate all hospitals and clinics stringently and cancel licences in cases of illegal activities.”

Expressing concerns that organ swapping between spouses can lead to more 'kidney brides' — women who are married for their kidney by men needing a donor — Chawdhry said more safeguards are needed to protect spouses. "If organ swapping between spouses is currently taking place, it is unauthorised under the existing Act. The CBI will go through all hospital records to find out how permission to go ahead was granted in these cases," said Chawdhury.

Like the Greek patients, many buyers got away, said Chawdhry, because the police could not prove money exchanged hands. In cases of unrelated donors, the onus of proving no money exchanged hands should be on the recipient - guilty unless proven innocent - with stronger punishment is being discussed, but this will need Parliament approval and should be done by the end of the year," he said.