The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Children turn into kidney cheats
- Relatives plot with doctors & organ brokers to put elders under the knife

Hyderabad, Dec. 1: A man struck a deal with doctors and an organ-transplant broker to sell his aged and unsuspecting father’s kidney, first taking him to hospital for a “check-up” and then telling him he needed an operation.

Narasimhulu, 34, of Medak district north of Hyderabad, was merely doing what hundreds of families have done in the state, an organisation of government doctors says.

Several illegal organ “donations” take place every week in Hyderabad hospitals, the donors coming from the state’s villages and the recipients from as far as Punjab and Gujarat, even from other countries, a doctor said.

“In about half the cases, the donors — usually aged parents or relatives — are kept in the dark,” said Dr Ramesh Kumar, a senior official of the AP Doctors’ Association.

“Before the operation, they are taken to a clinic to test the quality of their organs in the guise of a check-up. The children take the money after the transplant.”

Narasimhulu’s plan went bust after his 65-year-old father, Kammari Kistaiyya, finally smelt a rat and went to Narsapet police station from the family’s home in Jakkapalli village, 85km from Hyderabad.

“My son couldn’t stand me. He beat me up twice for advising him against his wayward life,” the farmer, who owns 12 acres of land and two acres of wetlands, told officers.

Narasimhulu, questioned and warned last week by the police, told them: “Almost every family in our village and those in 10 nearby villages have sold, or struck deals to sell, the organs of their elders.”

The organs are mostly kidneys and sometimes (a portion of) the liver or an eye. The law allows no payment in cash or kind for organ donation.

Sources said the going rate was anything between Rs 75,000 and Rs 4 lakh per kidney, depending on the urgency and the recipient’s ability to pay. A liver donation brings around Rs 1 lakh.

Narasimhulu said villagers in Jakkapalli had struck their deals through Bhagyamma, 45, a former nurse in Hyderabad who lives in the area. Bhagyamma, questioned by the police, said she took a 5 per cent cut from both the parties (donor and recipient) but everything was done legally.

According to the law, if an organ donor is not a close relative of the recipient, the entire case details must go to an authorisation committee at the district, city or state level.

The committee, made up by medical and socio-legal experts, is to ensure no money or gift changes hands, but it is very difficult to do so since the payment can easily be delayed. Also, the patient’s signed consent is a must.

The doctors’ association carried out a probe after receiving reports that many donors were being cheated by their families. It discussed the matter at its meeting last week.

The local police say they know what goes on in Jakkapalli but insist that only rarely are the donors kept in the dark.

“The patients’ families come to the village and talk to the donors to satisfy themselves that there’s no hanky-panky,” an officer said. “We don’t act as long as there is no complaint of cheating.”

Kidney sales are more common in areas with a high rate of farmer suicides, state police say. Many have been reported from the tobacco and cotton belts of Prakasham, Karimnagar, Guntur and Krishna.

Police sources said a few of Hyderabad’s array of super-speciality hospitals are also involved. “Kidney patients from across India — including Bollywood personalities’ relatives — and some foreign countries come here,” a source said.

Andhra has now surpassed Gujarat in illegal transplants, kidney specialist Dr K.N. Naik said. Hyderabad is dotted with dialysis centres that support patients waiting for a transplant.

“There are 138 dialysis centres in Ameerpet, Banjara Hills, Narayanaguda and Jubilee Hills area of the city,” he said.

“The younger generation is making capital of their aged relatives who struggled throughout their life to bring them up,” said Dr Gopalakrishna, nephrologist and former superintendent of Osmania Hospital, Hyderabad.

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