DOCTOR ARRESTED scream the headlines. Recently, we have been inundated with news of Kidney Scams. Questions arise to mind immediately: Why do doctors steal kidneys? I myself am a member of the authorization committee for transplantation at a local corporate hospital along with a retired judge, additional deputy commissioner, nominees of civil surgeon among others. Intrigued by such news I tried to go into details of some such cases.
The authorization committee of a hospital screens all donors and recipients before permission is given for transplant. As per law, in this screening committee meeting both the donor and the recipient appear separately and present documents to prove their relationship with each other. Affidavits and verifications by local Tehsildar, Sarpanch etc as to the identity and relationship of the donor with the recipient are checked. The verification is done by asking questions based on documents presented so that any discrepancy can be picked up. Medical history and reports of donor are also checked to see suitability and fitness of the donor. Without approval of the authorization committee no organ transplantation can be done.
Why is it then that a person who has been videographed stating that he out of love and affection is giving his kidney to his sister and has presented proof of his relationship before an authorization committee suddenly turns around and claims that his kidney has been stolen from him. The answer to this is greed pure and simple. The desperation of an end-stage kidney disease patient who is told that transplant is his only hope can only be understood either by the patient himself or by his relatives. This desperation is exploited by unscrupulous persons who procure this kidney for them. Touts and professionals identify and contact these patients on dialysis needing transplant. They strike a deal with patients or their relatives to find for them willing donors who get paid for the kidney. Later either because the touts do not pay promised amount or the donor realizes he could ask for more money, the ‘dispute’ snowballs into a full blown “scam”.
In these murky dealings, members of the authorization committee as well as the transplant surgeon’s team, including anaesthetists, assistants and resident doctors who have no role to play, get trapped. The crime gets done at local level where false affidavits and other documents are prepared (in one case at Lucknow). At the most the authorization committee can be accused of incompetence or negligence and the surgical team of not even this. An anaesthetist is called for surgery and he checks the patient from anaesthesia point of view, gives anaesthesia during the surgery, brings the patient out of anaesthesia and does post-anaesthesia check-up. He does neither have the competence nor the training to detect a fake brother from a real brother nor is that his job. Similarly, a doctor hired to give postoperative care to the patient has no role to play in preoperative conspiracy but because of having been a part of the surgical team gets roped in.
Is doing transplantation a crime in this country? If it is not, then do not treat transplant surgical teams as criminals. Unfortunately, in their job they come across such persons who without their knowledge may have committed a crime but these are the persons who should be punished and not the surgeon or the anaesthetist. Already deceased donor transplant programmes all over the country suffer due to myths and religious beliefs. Please do not kill the live related donor transplant programme also by this ‘Witch Hunt’.
Do we hear of the touts or persons who prepare false documents, false affidavits, or the Sarpanch and Tehsildar who verify the donor ever get prosecuted? It is so much easier to arrest the doctors even if their connection with the ‘crime’ is nebulous and distant to say the least. ‘Witch Hunt’ of the kind that was practiced in medieval times is now being done with ‘Doctors’ now replacing witches. Punishing doctors even when innocent, dragging them to police station in chains, seeing them being produced in court and being sent to jail give a perverse pleasure to many. No compensation for the trauma undergone by these doctors even after they are acquitted is ever forthcoming.
There is no justification of sale of human organs. However, sale of human organs does happen and is a fact known to all. Reasons are not far to seek in a country where the difference in lives of the rich and the poor is so stark that even the unimaginable happens frequently. The crime is not in being a highly qualified expert with years of experience in saving lives. The crime is being committed before the patient even approaches the doctor and the authorization committee. The deal has already been made, papers prepared, coaching on what is to be said in front of the authorization committee already done. The doctors are conducting a transplant to save a person’s life. They are not aware or part of the procurement process. If anything, they are the victims of the conspiracy. Some serious thought needs to be put into this matter by the authorities for the next patient needing a transplant, may be your own family member and the doctors may simply have given up by then.
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