How Much for a Kidney?
A few days back the Haryana Police busted the illegal Kidney racket run by Anil Kumar of Gurgaon. The dude had been doing this for ages and also has two hospitals in Gurgaon. Most of his clients are foreigners looking for cheap Kidney transplants. The news is that he has used his contacts to get away from the country. Irrespective of whether they find him or not, though, one thing this issue has clearly proved is that it’s high time organ trade was legalised in India. That, in my opinion is the best way to protect the interest of the donors who otherwise get duped by thugs like Anil Kumar.
Most of these donors are poor, uneducated people. Nothing wrong with earning money. After all, if someone can donate (read sell) blood, why not other organs, as long as they are not being forced to do it? It’s for the government to make sure that their interest is protected. If done properly, legalising organ trade would actually make sure that many needy people will find the right donor and would not have to use the wrong means. It would also remove the incentives for crooks, who rely on misinformation and fear to buy organs at lower costs and sell at higher costs. Market fores will make sure that everyone is kept honest.
It’s very encouraging to see the government make a start on this. Anbumani Ramadoss, Union Health Minister, has announced the setting up of 10 replicas of the Organ Retrieval Banking Organisation at AIIMS. This is a good first step, but has to be followed by leagalisation of organ trade sooner or later. The Transplantation of Human Organs Bill of 1994 has proved to be useless in curbing the menace of illegal organ trade and needs to be scrapped urgently. It is not surprising that demand for organs is high even in developed nations like US which banned organ trade as far back as 1984. Economic development does not eliminate myopia.
For success stories on legal organ trade, we need to look eastwards, more precisely at Iran. The country has legalised Kidney trade and is doing wonderfully well with its programme. An article from 2002 in Frontline looks at this phenomenon:
In a country where brain-stem death is not recognised by law, the system has virtually eliminated recipient waiting lists. Members of the CFSD have claimed that the regulated system is a “new chapter in the world’s transplantation history,”…
That, of course is just one side of it, as pointed out by the article. Donors have faced severe backlash at the work front where they have had to leave their job as they weren’t fit enough. That’s where the role of the government becomes so important.
History has proved that banning the trade of a good has not stopped the trade, it has merely taken the trade underground. Remember prohibition of liquor in Andhra Pradesh. People did not stop drinking because of the prohibition, they found new ways of doing it right under the governments nose without being caught. Gujarat is supposed to be a ‘dry state’. But it’s a well known fact that not only do buyers of liquor exist in Gujarat, the industry is actually doing quite well.
Related link: Organ Trade, a US-based NGO that tracks “the global traffic in human organs.”