• Sunday, June 16, 2024


India orders probe into ‘cash-for-kidney’ allegations

This follows a media report which says young villagers from Myanmar are flown to Dehli’s Indraprastha Apollo Hospital and paid to donate their kidneys to rich Burmese patients

Representative Image (iStock)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

INDIA has ordered an investigation into allegations of a cash-for-kidney scam against a prominent Delhi hospital, official sources said on Tuesday (4).

It follows a report in the Sunday Telegraph (3) which claimed “desperate young villagers” from Myanmar are flown to Indraprastha Apollo Hospital and “paid to donate their kidneys to rich Burmese patients.”

Under Indian and Myanmar laws, a patient cannot receive an organ donation from a stranger. The Telegraph report alleged that the racket involves “the elaborate forging of identity documents and staging of ‘family’ photographs to present donors as the relatives of would-be patients”.

India’s National Organ and Tissue Transplantation Organisation (NOTTO), which operates under the federal health ministry, wrote to the Delhi state government, seeking an investigation and asked for a report to be submitted within a week.

In his letter, NOTTO director Anil Kumar referred to the media report alleging the involvement of the hospital and a UK-trained surgeon, Sandeep Guleria, in the kidney racket.

“The report highlights that such activities may be taking place posing a serious threat to the health and well-being of vulnerable individuals…” Kumar said.

The Indraprastha Medical Corporation Ltd (IMCL), which is part of the Apollo Hospitals group, said on Monday (4) that it follows “every legal and ethical requirement” for transplants, including government guidelines.

Rejecting the paper’s allegations, IMCL said each foreign donor is required to provide a certification from their government stating that the donor and recipient are indeed related before undertaking a transplant.

“To be clear, the IMCL complies with every legal and ethical requirement for the transplant procedures, including all guidelines laid down by the government as well as our own extensive internal processes that exceed compliance requirements,” a company spokesperson said. They added that the government-appointed transplant authorisation committee at the IMCL reviews documents for each case and interviews the donor and the recipient.

According to the spokesperson, both patients and donors undergo several medical tests, including genetic testing.

The Telegraph report said “wealthy” patients arrive at the hospital for operations from all over the world, including the UK.

An NHS kidney specialist told the paper UK patients travelled abroad for “live” organ transplants donated by strangers.

“The majority of them are people from the Indian subcontinent going overseas. They’re coming back with kidneys; sometimes there’s a story that this was from a relative or whatever, which is obviously difficult to evaluate,” the specialist told the newspaper.

NHS data revealed that at least 158 NHS British patients have travelled overseas for an organ transplant since 2010 and 25 per cent of the operations were conducted in India, the report said.

An undercover Telegraph reporter posed as a relative of an ailing family member in need of a kidney, but with no family members to donate the organ.

“If none of them [relatives] is possible, we will have to find a donor,” Dr Htet Htet Myint Wai, told the Telegraph undercover reporter. “It’s easy to find a donor.”

The doctor’s business card described her as working for Apollo office in Myanmar.

Another person associated with Apollo, Phyoe Khant Hein, was quoted as saying that 80 per cent of transplantations facilitated in Myanmar are between strangers.

“Only 20 per cent are relatives,” he said.

Guleria denied wrongdoing.

“I do not do unrelated transplants and have never had any financial transaction of any kind” from the agents and officials named in the Telegraph’s investigation, he said, adding that it was “impossible for an unrelated donor to clear the Government of India Committee”.

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