Kidneys and crimes

Print edition : June 06, 1998

Allegations of illegal kidney transplant operations in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh lead to the arrest of medical professionals.

ALLEGATIONS of illegal trade in human organs have been reported recently from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, States which have not adopted the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994. In almost all the instances reported, the victims, poor and often illiterate, were either cheated of their organs or forced to 'donate' them in return for a relatively small sum. One of the most common methods employed is to lure a prospective job-seeker with the promise of employment abroad. A tout takes the victim to a nursing home where the organ, most often a kidney, is surreptitiously removed: this is the picture that has emerged from several first information reports filed with the police.

The arrest of a Ranchi-based nephrologist, Dr. S.S. Prasad, on May 8 raised questions about the alleged role of certain doctors in the racket. Dr. Prasad, a former head of the Department of Medicine of the Rajendra Medical College and Hospital in Ranchi, runs the Prasad Nursing Home in the city. He was arrested on charges of wrongful confinement, cheating and endangering the life of a person.

According to the police, the doctor removed the kidney of Nasir Ali, a powerloom worker from Mumbai, for transplantation. Nasir Ali was taken to Ranchi on May 6 by the crime detection branch of the Mumbai police after a case was lodged with the Bhoiwara police station in Maharashtra's Thane district.

Dr. S.S. Prasad in the custody of the Ranchi police.-PRASANT MITRA

Ali said that he was taken to Prasad Nursing Home on June 19 last year. Two days later he found himself in Harkisan Dass Narottam Dass Hospital in Mumbai with one of his kidneys removed, he said.

Ali hails from Madhubani in Bihar. He was looking for a job in West Asia when he met four persons who were allegedly involved in the trade of human organs. He was asked to raise Rs. 40,000 for expenses towards his passage to the Gulf, his complaint to the police said. He sold his property in his village to raise the amount. The members of the group then told him that he needed to undergo a thorough medical check-up before going abroad, and took him to a doctor in Mumbai, the police said. The doctor and a nurse took Nasir Ali to Delhi and then to Ranchi via Patna by air and on June 19 admitted him to Prasad Nursing Home, it is alleged. Dr. Prasad, Nasir Ali stated, took his blood samples and gave him an injection, after which he became unconscious. Nasir Ali got to know from the nurse after two days that his left kidney had been removed and transplanted in a Syrian national, 37-year-old Nahez. Nahez thanked Ali in writing and promised to pay Rs. 50,000 for the kidney. Nasir Ali did not receive the money. He also lost the Rs.40,000 he had given for securing a job, the complaint said.

In his statement to the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Nasir Ali alleged that police stations in Mumbai did not entertain his complaints against the doctors. However, on the CJM's directive, a case was registered at the Bhoiwara police station on April 6. On May 8, the Ranchi police, assisted by a crime branch team from Mumbai, raided Prasad Nursing Home and detained Dr. Prasad and three others. As word about the raid spread, a crowd gathered in front of the nursing home demanding that the doctor be handed over to it. Political parties, including the Congress(I), the Samata Party and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, called for a Ranchi bandh to demand the sealing of the nursing home.

Dr. Prasad, however, told mediapersons that the charges against him were baseless. He said that his nursing home was the only one in the region where kidney transplantations were performed legally. He, however, could not provide the admission register, the cash books, the bills, the post-operation investigation register and the risk bond register of June 1997. He told the police that Income Tax officials who raided the nursing home last year for non-submission of returns had taken the records with them.

The case took a new turn when the manager of the nursing home, Radha Krishna Naiyar, now under arrest, agreed to turn approver. The statements of Naiyar and two nurses, Roselyn Joseph and Sister Bina, recorded on May 12 before a judicial magistrate, pointed to the involvement of some Indian doctors in an international racket in the trade of human organs.

According to Naiyar, four legal and 12 illegal transplants have taken place at Prasad Nursing Home since 1997. He told the court that other doctors frequented the nursing home and brought donors and recipients - Indians and foreigners. The operations, he stated, were usually performed between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Sister Joseph and Sister Bina told the court that the doctor-nurse duo from Mumbai had visited Prasad Nursing Home thrice in the past along with donors and recipients and a team of doctors from Mumbai. Sister Joseph alleged that Dr. Prasad charged Rs. 30,000 to Rs.40,000 for a transplant. Naiyar said that no papers were signed, nor agreements drawn for operations. The names of donors or recipients were not entered in the admission register. He could not, however, say how much money changed hands since, he said, he was kept out of such deals.

ALLEGATIONS of a kidney transplant racket centred on the Noida Medicare Centre (NMC), a hospital in Uttar Pradesh, not far from Delhi, have also set off a controversy. The hospital, one of two hospitals that undertake kidney transplant surgery in the State (the other being the Sanjay Gandhi Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Science in Lucknow), was raided by the police on May 9.

The raid followed a complaint by Shaukat Ali, a resident of East Delhi, that one of his kidneys had been removed without his consent. Soon, three more persons - Harish Chandra of Haldwani, Rakesh of Hapur and Rajesh Kumar of Naoroji Nagar in Delhi - made similar complaints.

Ten persons have been arrested. They include Dr. Navin Choudhary, who owns the hospital; Dr. Harsh Johri, a surgeon; Dr. Sanjay Wadhawan, a nephrologist; Sadhna Sud, the administrator of the hospital; and Sanjay Singh, a police constable.

The alleged modus operandi was more or less the same in all the cases. The FIR in the cases of Shaukat Ali and Rajesh Kumar said that they had been lured into undergoing an operation in return for jobs in Singapore.

According to the police version and newspaper reports, two groups, one led by Sanjay Singh and the other by Akhilesh Yadav, a taxi driver from Etawah, were involved. Sanjay Singh was a security guard at Sadhna Sud's house.

Nasir Ali, whose kidney was removed illegally.-PRASANT MITRA

According to the police, whenever a patient approached the hospital for a kidney transplant, he or she would be directed to a certain telephone booth. The booth operator would then contact Sanjay Singh, and a meeting would be arranged between donor and seller. While kidney seekers were charged upwards of Rs. 80,000, donors were paid Rs. 45,000. The transplant itself cost Rs. 1.5 lakh or more.

Shaukat Ali told the police on May 7 that he was taken to the clinic by Mukesh Kumar, whom he had met in old Delhi. He was admitted to the hospital on January 7 under the name of Sunil, the FIR said. At the MNC, he was administered a drug and he became unconscious, he said. According to the FIR, when he regained consciousness he was in great pain. Mukesh Kumar was allegedly present in the room then. On January 14, he was given Rs. 5,000 and discharged. He was asked to come another day to change the dressing. The bandage was changed three days later by Dr. Wadhawan in the presence of the other doctors and persons, who have also been arrested. Shaukat Ali was told that he would be sent to Singapore after he recovered completely, the FIR said.

Shaukat Ali visited a local doctor some days later. The doctor told him that his gurda (kidney) had been removed. When he produced the medical records, the doctor found that his name had been changed to Sunil Kumar with a Meerut address. His thumb impression had been affixed on the identity affidavit - one of the documents required to be submitted by a prospective donor. However, the police maintained that the affidavit was false; the magistrate who was stated to have attested the document denied having done so. They said that a clerk in a Ghaziabad court had supplied the false affidavit for Rs.700 as also a ration card for Rs.900.

The affidavit of Shaukat Ali under the name of Sunil Kumar states that "out of love and affection and on humanitarian ground, I offered to donate my one kidney to Shri Subhash Chand just to save his life without any coercion of any kind and/or for any other extraneous consideration." In his FIR, Shaukat Ali named the doctors and other persons who allegedly lured him into a situation in which his kidney was removed.

NIRBHAY, a resident of Delhi and father of another alleged victim, Rajesh Kumar, told the police that a person named Kamaljeet approached his son in Connaught Place and promised him a job. Kamaljeet took Rajesh to the NMC, where he was introduced to Akhilesh Yadav, Dr. Johri, Dr. Wadhawan and Sadhna Sud, according to the complainant. According to Rajesh, they promised to get him a job and also give him Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 1.5 lakh if he agreed to undergo a "small" daktari (operation). Some tests were carried out and soon he was rendered unconscious. When he came around he was in great pain. He was then told that one of his kidneys had been removed but this would not affect his health, the complainant said. When he asked them for the money that had been promised, Yadav allegedly paid him Rs. 45,000 and told him not to discuss the matter with anyone.

THE Indian Medical Association's (IMA) Noida unit described the arrests as "high-handed and unwarranted". On May 10, the IMA branch gave a strike call to all nursing homes in Noida. It held that the three arrested doctors were well-known medical practitioners. Apart from working at the NMC, Dr. Harsh Johri had been conducting kidney transplants at Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi for the last 10 years, a family member of the doctor said. "His credibility is above board," said Professor Seema Johri, his wife.

The Noida Medical Centre near Delhi.-R.V.MOORTHY

The Delhi Nephrology Society said in a statement that before kidney transplants were performed, the donor and the recipient had to undergo a series of tests spanning at least two weeks. It said: "The charges are malicious and baseless with total distortion of the facts after an interval of three months."

The Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994 does not apply to Uttar Pradesh as the State has not yet adopted it. The Act, meant to end the trade in human kidneys, forbids organ donation by anyone except a "near relative", defined in the Act as a mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter or spouse. The purchase of an organ for money or money's worth is punishable with a prison term ranging from two to seven years and a fine of Rs.10,000 to Rs.20,000.

However, one major lacuna in the Act is Sub-Section 3 of Section 9, which lays down that donation by an unrelated donor for reasons of "affection or attachment" towards the recipient or for any other "special reasons" is acceptable provided the donation is approved by the Authorisation Committee (Frontline, December 26, 1997).

Some medical practitioners in Noida and New Delhi alleged that the doctors had been manhandled and described as illegal their confinement on charges of illegal confinement and culpable homicide.

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