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Illegal organ trade

November 24, 2018


FOLLOWING the petition filed by a Kohat resident against an alleged illegal kidney transplantation case last month, a Peshwar High Court bench has asked KP’s health department and FIA to look into the prevalence of the illegal trade in the province. Mohammadullah Khan complained that a group, including doctors, performed a kidney transplant on his uncle, in return for Rs2.55m. He died within two days. The case serves to spotlight once again the illegal trade of human organs. One of the most disturbing consequences of globalisation, the demand and supply of human organs connects the wealthiest to the poorest through a vicious cycle of scarcity and exploitation. Its continued existence is dependent on a flourishing black market, exacerbated by economic inequalities and the desperation to survive. Sensing the urgency of the issue, made worse by the lack of data, the World Health Assembly urged member nations to “take measures to protect the poorest and vulnerable groups from ‘transplant tourism’ and the sale of tissues and organs” in 2004. Despite criminalising the trade in organs in 2010, cases of the illegal trade keep popping up in Pakistan, time and again. A large chunk of the population lives in multidimensional poverty. Many donors are bonded labourers, desperate to pay off oppressive debts. They rarely receive post-operative care, and some die from complications.

In 2016, a police raid in Rawalpindi found 24 ‘donors’ holed up inside a dingy apartment, waiting for their surgeries in return for a few thousand dollars — a small portion of the total paid to the surgeons by wealthy benefactors. In 2017, a raid on a bungalow in Lahore uncovered an organ trafficking network that had been operating since 2009. At the time of the raid, an Omani national, a ‘transplant tourist’, was being operated on. For years, organisations such as SIUT and Edhi Foundation have campaigned for deceased organ donations. The state must now add to their efforts by diverting some of its resources to aid the awareness drive.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2018