12/08/2023, 14.13
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Illegal organ trafficking: an investigation accuses an Indian hospital

This week, the Telegraph wrote that it had uncovered a kidney-buying racket involving Myanmar nationals as donors and a private health facility in Delhi, where transplants would take place. The phenomenon is not new: despite decades of awareness-raising (starting in Tamil Nadu) there is still a shortage of donors in India and too many people who would need at least one kidney. It is mainly poor people who need to pay off debts who fall victim to trafficking, but online scams have also increased in recent years.

Milan (AsiaNews) - One of India's largest private hospital companies is believed to be involved in an organ trafficking operation, an investigation published this week by the English The Telegraph newspaper reported.


According to the investigation, several poor citizens from Myanmar were transferred to Delhi's Apollo Hospital (one of two hospitals in the capital run by the Indraprastha Medical company, also known as IMCL) and paid to have their kidneys exported, which are then donated to other patients, often even foreigners.

“The allegations made by recent international media against IMCL are absolutely false, ill-informed and misleading,” the private company said in a statement. Apollo Hospitals Group said it agreed with the IMCL statement. “As part of its corporate governance policy, IMCL has initiated an investigation into the matter to delve into all aspects of the transplant process,” the company further explained.

Organ sales are being considered in India (and Myanmar), but it would not be the first time reports have emerged of kidney trafficking in India, where there is a shortage of donors. Nearly a million Indians are diagnosed with chronic kidney disease every year and around 200,000 people suffer from end-stage renal failure. By some estimates, only 10% of Indians who develop kidney disease see a nephrologist, and at least 20 Indians die every day waiting for an organ donation. As of 2022, only 7,500 tran

splants have occurred across the country.

Studies and surveys indicate that most of the people who give up their organs in exchange for money are inhabitants of Indian slums and agricultural districts suffering from increasing drought. In other words: the poorest population in the country, who find themselves forced to sell a kidney (especially women with an average age of 35 who do so) especially to pay off debts with local loan sharks. The amount received is usually around an average of ,000, which is often not enough for families to cover debts and expenses.

Furthermore, during the years of the pandemic, several Indians said they were contacted on Facebook to sell a kidney at the price of 10 million rupees (122 thousand dollars) and were informed that they had to pay several thousand rupees in advance to obtain the card. donor registration, a document that government authorities actually grant for free.

A woman named Surya was about to fall victim to such a scam when she found the number of the Mohan Foundation, an NGO that promotes legal organ donation, an issue few Indians know about.

Founded in 1997 by Dr. Sunil Shroff, a transplant surgeon in the United Kingdom, over time it began to collect reports from people who were asked on social media to donate their organs in exchange for money. Interviewed by AsiaNews, he explained that there is no data regarding organ trafficking, as it is an illegal activity, while in the case of the Apollo hospital "all the agreements took place in Myanmar and, in this situation, the Burmese authorities should take action" .

Organ donation by deceased people is not common in India, so most transplants are done by living donors who are relatives or friends of the patient. The rules governing organ transplants came into force after a tsunami devastated several areas of the country in 2004, particularly the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Many of the survivors of the tragedy who found themselves destitute after losing their jobs or homes turned to selling organs to survive. The phenomenon had become so popular that the Villivakkam district was nicknamed “Kidneyvakkam”. In response to the crisis, Tamil Nadu has led the way in promoting cadaveric organ donation.

Yet nationwide, demand for organs continues to outstrip supply, with a rate of less than one deceased donor per million inhabitants. On the contrary, Dr. Shroff highlighted that “in 2019, 88% of the 9,751 kidney transplants and 77% of the 2,590 liver transplants performed in India were from living donors".

The reasons for this problem are different: from one On the one hand, there is a lack of awareness on the subject even among doctors and nurses, who in the case of a deceased patient do not feel comfortable contacting the families asking them to approve organ donation.

On the other hand, even if there were a greater supply of donors, there are only 250 hospitals registered with the Indian National Organization for Organ and Tissue Transplantation (NOTTO), equal to one equipped facility for every 4.3 million citizens.

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