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Saturday, February 9th 2008

Kidney Thefts In India

Was This Indian Doc Stealing Kidneys?

There were a recent rash of kidnappings and subsequent kidney thefts in India.

As the anesthetic wore off, Naseem Mohammed said, he felt an acute pain in the lower left side of his abdomen. Fighting drowsiness, he fumbled beneath the unfamiliar folds of a green medical gown and traced his fingers over a bandage attached with surgical tape. An armed guard by the door told him that his kidney had been removed.

Mr. Mohammed was the last of about 500 Indians whose kidneys were removed by a team of doctors running an illegal transplant operation, supplying kidneys to rich Indians and foreigners, police officials said.

Many of the donors were day laborers, like Mr. Mohammed, picked up from the streets with the offer of work, driven to a well-equipped private clinic, and duped or forced at gunpoint to undergo operations.

Initially, the ‘head’ surgeon beind the ring seemed to have escaped.

[Amit Kumar] was arrested in 1994 on suspicion of running a kidney transplant racket in Mumbai, but jumped bail, changed his name and set up work again from several clinics hidden in residential apartments in Gurgaon, a prosperous city outside Delhi.

The police raided one of his clinics in 2000, but somehow he was allowed to continue working. Officials neglected to investigate further even after at least one television investigation exposed his work.

Apparently tipped off to the raid, Dr. Kumar escaped arrest. Only one of the four main doctors implicated has been detained.

The officials suspect that several private hospitals in Delhi and its suburbs were quietly complicit in Dr. Kumar’s work and treated patients recovering from kidney transplants.

But has now been captured.

Dr. Amit Kumar, smiling and with an apparent air of confidence, was paraded before reporters at the end of a news conference in which he declared his innocence.

“I have not duped anyone. I have not done anything wrong,” Kumar said before authorities whisked him away. “You know that.”

He appears to contend that the donors did so voluntarily and were compensated. Still, that would be illegal under Indian law where, like the United States, it is illegal to sell organs.

I actually think transparent and well consented (if that’s even a phrase) compensated live organ donation should be legal. At the least this horrific ‘kidney ring’ in India appears to fall well short of that and it sounds like, by media accounts, actually involved the shocking theft of kidneys.

I’ve talked about black market organ transplantation before on this blog. This just serves as further documentation of that. If everyone would sign up as an organ donor, the “necessity” of rings like this would decrease significantly.