HT Spotlight: Ways to curb illegal kidney transplants

  • Aayushi Pratap, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jul 21, 2016 23:48 IST

Taking note of instances of people being tricked into kidney transplants, The Transplantation of Human’s Organ Act was framed in 1994 to end illegal organ trade. But two decades later too, there seems to be no end to crimes related to organ donations.

A case in point could be the foiled illegal kidney transplant bid at Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital, Powai, on July 14. The 48-year-old recipient from Gujarat, who was suffering from a chronic kidney ailment, had submitted forged documents claiming the donor was his wife. Police investigations indicated the hospital staff, too, may have been involved in the racket.

Dr Sanjay Nagaral, editor of Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, said, “Such scams reflect deprivation. There are people who are desperate to get an organ transplant and the mindset is one can buy things, even an organ.”

“While donors are willing to pay for an organ, there are people who are willing to donate their organ in exchange for a few lakh rupees. We need to stop entertaining such patients,” said a nephrologist, who did not wish to be named.

Doctors said patients are willing to get an organ illegally because of the huge gap in the demand and availability of organs for transplants. According to the data by the Chennai-based Mohan Foundation, two lakh people in India need transplants every year. Currently, 3,100 patients in Mumbai with end-stage organ failure are awaiting transplants, according to the zonal transplant coordination committee (ZTCC) that oversees and facilitates cadaver donations in Maharashtra.

“A report by the Directorate of Medical Education and Research, (DMER) states 900 kidney transplants are conducted in Mumbai every year, of which 90% come from live donors,” said Dr Pravin Shingare, director, DMER. “This means a small number of kidneys come from cadaver donations, compared to other countries such as Spain, where more than 50% organ donations are cadaver.”

Dr Jatin Kothari, nephrologist, PD Hinduja Hospital, Mahim, said, “There has been an increase in the number of patients with chronic kidney diseases. But this increase has come with better access to facilities such as dialysis. This also means there are more patients awaiting kidney transplants.”

Dr Shrirang Bichu, nephrologist, Bombay Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Marine Lines, said dialysis is always the second option. “Dialysis comes with a compromised quality of life. It is only in cases where we don’t find donors or we can’t do a transplant because of other medical conditions that we continue with dialysis,” he said, adding patients who are on dialysis have to be in hospital for 12 hours a week.

The most viable way of bridging the gap is to encourage cadaver organ donations, said doctors.

Dr Gustad Daver, president of ZTCC, said, “We need to work on the state’s cadaver donation programme. Public hospitals, where most brain stem deaths are reported, need to be forthcoming in raising awareness about cadaver donations.”

After the kidney scam at the hospital in Powai, the state’s public health department is contemplating stringent guidelines for approval for organ transplants. Doctors said it will add to the troubles faced by patients, awaiting transplants. “Making laws more stringent by including clauses such as police verification of all documents submitted by patients is not the solution,” said Dr Daver.

“The current laws scrutinise the entire process. Every hospital has a member from the Directorate of Health Services to look into it,” he said.

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