Vending organs

Published May 13, 2024

IN these cash-strapped times, black marketers in the organ trade are returning to rake it in by harvesting the organs of the desperate. Sadly, recent reports of raids show that the racket is once again on the rise. The Punjab Healthcare Commission, FIA and the Punjab Human Organ Transplant Authority recently arrested three suspects for illegal renal transplants at a private hospital in Lahore, but some of the staff as well as the owner escaped. While officials speculate about the involvement of a large network in the kidney transplant scam, hospital employees confessed to 10 unlawful transplants at the facility. Two raids in March had also unearthed interests of criminal gangs. In one incident, the police busted an organ trade ring, which took poor labourers to Islamabad and removed their kidneys. Another six accused were taken into custody during a separate operation; they were performing an illegal kidney transplant of a female patient at a private medical facility in Lahore.

Pakistan had been the epicentre of organ sales — illicit domestic transplants and transplant tourism — until legislation in 2010 proscribed the practice. But the criminal justice system has, time and again, failed to take stringent action against organised organ trade and corrupt medical practitioners. The courts too should be clear about putting offenders out of business. Without sustained caution and application of the law, the country will relapse into savagery, becoming a global market for organs. Moreover, law enforcement should be brought up to speed on modern protocols to keep one step ahead of vile racketeers. The last thing our fragile economy needs is an organ racket revival. Hence, political parties, NGOs, health authorities and the police have to foster awareness and vigilance to prosecute unethical doctors, traffickers and brokers so that the menace is exterminated. As despicable edifices of exploitation are torn down, advocacy for deceased organ donations and lawful transplantations has to grow louder.

Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2024

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