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Kidney transplant racket uncovered

Latest update : 2008-01-29

Indian police have uncovered an international organ trafficking ring in the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon. Over the last nine years, surgeons are thought to have operated on hundreds of Indians against their will. (Report: C.Henri)

NEW DELHI, Jan 28 (Reuters) - The uncovering of an illegal
kidney transplant racket in a booming IT city has gripped
India, with reports hundreds of poor labourers may have been
duped or forced into donating organs to wealthy clients,
including foreigners.


Hundreds of people from across northern India had their
kidneys removed at a private house, which had a
state-of-the-art operating theatre hidden inside, after being
lured to Gurgaon, a city of hi-tech companies just outside New
Delhi.


"We suspect around 400 or 500 kidney transplants were done
by these doctors over the last nine years," Mohinder Lal,
Gurgaon's police chief, told the Hindustan Times.


Several people have been arrested, including some doctors,
police said.


The case, one of the largest transplant rackets reported in
India in recent years, has dominated the country's headlines
and sparked calls for the government to tighten regulation of
kidney transplants to stop backstreet operations as global
demand rises.


"Dr Horror" was how India's Mail Today described the
ringleader of the racket in a front-page headline on Monday.


The doctor accused of heading the group may have fled the
country, according to police, quoted as saying he appeared to
have been tipped off. As many as 50 medical officials may have
been involved in the racket.


At least five foreigners -- two U.S. and three Greek
citizens -- were found in a luxury guesthouse operated by the
doctor running the racket, Lal was quoted as saying by local
media.


Police said they have since been allowed to leave India.


Many victims complained they were taken to the house with
promises of a job, and then duped or forced at gunpoint to sell
their kidneys.


Labourers, many who gathered every day in parts of Gurgaon
to look for any kind of job, were offered around 50,000 rupees
($1,250) for their kidneys. They were sold to wealthy clients
for 10 times as much.


"I was approached by a stranger for a job. When I accepted,
I was taken to a room with gunmen," Mohammed Salim told NDTV
television.


"They tested my blood, gave me an injection and I lost
consciousness. When I woke up, I had pain in my lower abdomen
and I was told that my kidney had been removed."


Suspicious neighbours said they had noticed blood running
out of the house's gutters, as well as blood-soaked bandages
and even bits of flesh thrown into an open plot near the house.


Kidney failure has become more common in rich countries,
often because of obesity. But a shortage of transplant organs
has fuelled a black market that exploits needy donors.


In "transplant tourism", rich patients pay tens of
thousands of dollars to receive kidneys in poor countries,
where payments are typically about $1,000 in the black market.


Illegal transplants are not new in India.


Last year, police in southern India said they had uncovered
evidence of illegal trade in kidneys sold by poor fishermen and
their families whose livelihoods were destroyed by the Indian
Ocean tsunami.

Date created : 2008-01-28

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