Posts for category ‘kidney racket’

Some Thoughts on Poverty
| February 3, 2007 | 11:04 pm

Yesterday I traveled up to Ervanoor to speak with a group of women who chose to sell their kidneys to brokers. It occurred to me that even after living in India off and on since 1998 that I can still barely grapple with understanding the lenghts that extreme poverty can drive people to.

I will save the salient details for an article I am working on. But I would like to raise a question for my readers.

What would you do if you became a mother at the age of 13 and 13 years later your daughter began having children? How would you respond when your daughter attempts to commit suicide by taking rat poison because her in-laws were harassing her for dowry she couldn’t afford? When your daughter had medical bills she couldn’t pay and the hospital threatened to kick her out on the street how far would you go? Would you sell a kidney to help her? How would you feel if after the procedure the broker you contacted absconded with most of the money she promised you?

Indian Organ Mafia Busted
| February 2, 2007 | 8:38 am

Police have begun to make arrests in tightly knit ring of organ smugglers who have been operating inNurse_in_hallway Tamil Nadu, India for the last two to ten years. In the last month there have been a slew of media reports about the organ racket, and while many of the details are still a bit fuzzy the implications are clear.

The first reports came during a public meeting of disenfranchised tsunami survivors in the village of Eranavoor who were airing their disappointment with government efforts to find them shelter and alleviate some of the more crushing aspects of poverty. In that meeting a group of 35 women admitted to having sold their kidneys to brokers and that they were put up in posh hospitals in nearby Chennai for a few days before being cast out on the street without after care. They women were primarily upset because the brokers offered them large sums of money, but ended up cheating them out of the lions share of the rewards.

Since the initial report over 150 people have come forward as victims of kidney brokers. Police from around the state are estimating that the total number of illegal transplants edges closer to 500. There have also been reports that some of the brokers also dealt in liver and bone marrow.

Other reports have suggested that many of the buyers are medical tourists from the middle east who have come to Chennai in order to skip over lengthy waiting lists in their home country while also saving a great deal of money on the surgery.

The police have already begun investigations into some of the hospitals that preformed the operations, yet the magnitude of the racket threatens to destabilize the medical administrations across the state. After a slew of illegal transplants in the 1990s, the government issued a law making it illegal to perform an operation without a thorough review from an ethics board.

The rules specifically state that no transplant should be undertaken if there is payment involved, and that all live transplants should be donations, preferably from family members. The organ mafia seems to have been able to provide false documents for the would be patients.

But it now appears that the state level ethics committee chaired by the Director of Medical Education in Chennai was complicit in the illegal dealings and authorized surgeries that they knew were about to be preformed under sham circumstances.

As one reporter I spoke to today said, “The ethics board would have to have been mad to think that all of these people flying in from around the country for transplants had poor, illiterate tsunami survivors for relatives living in the vicinity of the hospitals.” Members of the local ethics boards maintain that they did nothing wrong.

Tomorrow I am going to take a trip up to Eranavoor to see what local people can tell me about the racket. Feel free to send any tips or good wishes to me at