London, Aug. 30 (Reuters): A British doctor was found guilty of trafficking in human organs in a case that has opened a window on the illegal trade of transplanting third-world kidneys into first-world patients.
Indian-born doctor Bhagat Makkar denied the accusations to the General Medical Council, watchdog for the medical profession, but faces the possibility of criminal charges and being struck off the medical register.
“The doctor has been found guilty on several counts, but it is only the first part of the decision,” a council spokeswoman said. “The committee will now consider the evidence and will weigh charges against him to decide if he acted with serious professional misconduct. It is possible he will be struck off the medical register,” she added.
Thousands of patients await transplants in Britain, where the sale of organs was banned in 1989 after a Turkish man was arrested in Istanbul for arranging commercial transplants at a private London hospital.
Makkar, 62, was suspended from the medical register last December after a journalist posed as the son of a man in desperate need of a kidney and taped the conversation.
On the tapes, the doctor said he could easily find a donor from Mumbai or Hyderabad and might even be able to find an Asian donor in London.
Makkar, who has since retired from the profession, denied the allegations throughout a three-day hearing. The doxctor denied that he had agreed to a cash-for-kidney transaction during the conversation with the journalist.
His lawyer, Charles Foster, told the medical council’s panel that his client did not deserve to be struck off from the medical register.
“This was loose talk rather than serious professional misconduct. It was an isolated incident of stupidity, unprofessionalism and irresponsible,” the BBC quoted Foster as saying. “There is no suggestion the public needs to be protected from him.”
The council, in a statement, said Makkar’s behaviour was ”unprofessional, irresponsible and not in the best interest of the proposed patient”.
A police spokesman said Makkar could possibly face criminal charges.
But Makkar’s case is not unique in Britain.
Several doctors were charged with organ trafficking in the 1980s and another doctor is currently facing similar allegations that he offered kidneys for sale from live donors in India.
UK Transplant, a government body that matches donors with recipients, said more than 5,500 Britons were awaiting organ transplants, the vast majority in need of a kidney. “The demand for organs is increasing slightly and about 2,700 transplants are performed each year.”