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February 14, 2018

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Pakistan features prominently in illicit global trade of human organs

LAHORE: Although the Punjab police have succeeded in busting a ring of swindlers allegedly involved in extracting bone marrow and fluid from the spines of young girls in Hafizabad city, the law-enforcement agencies countrywide should have been alert to curb the illicit trade of these vital organs, especially after the Federal Investigating Agency (FIA) had arrested members of two illegal organ trade gangs in Lahore and Multan on April 30, 2017 and September 26, 2017 respectively.

Details of the Lahore Case:

On April 30, 2017, both local and foreign media houses had reported that this was the first-ever case registered under the Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA) against two doctors, two foreigners and two organ donors.

FIA Regional Director Punjab, Dr. Usman, had confirmed the arrests, adding that the suspects had been caught red-handed during a raid. Narrating the events of the raid, Dr Usman had said that when the raiding team entered the house in Gulberg locality, they found a man lying in a room who told them that he was an organ donor who had sold his kidney for Rs150, 000 as he was poor and needed the money.

The raiding team had also handcuffed two doctors, identified as Dr Fawad and Dr Altamash, from Lahore's General Hospital while they were in the middle of a surgery. Both doctors ceased the operation when they saw the FIA officials, but were asked to complete the procedure by the FIA officials for the sake of the patient. Both doctors however, due to the pressure, were unable to complete the surgery, the FIA official said.

Just days later, the Federal Investigation Agency had arrested ring leader of an illegal kidney trade racket along with his accomplices from the hilly resort of Murree.

FIA had raided a hotel in Murree and arrested an alleged ring leader of the racket Saqib Khan and his aides Fazail and Qamar. The Agency sources said all the accused were involved in illegal organ trade. The accused used to bring kidney patients from abroad to Pakistan for their transplantation here.

Details of the Multan Case:

On September 26, 2017, the Federal Investigation Agency had uncovered an illegal Kidney donation racket and arrested eight people including a doctor after raiding a house where unauthorized surgeries were reportedly underway.

Concerned authorities said the busted gang was involved in selling kidneys to international clients, particularly from Afghanistan. The FIA team had then raided a house in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa's Tehsil Bupi and arrested eight people including a doctor of Hayat Abad Medical Complex Peshawar, who were involved in illegally transplanting kidneys.

Research shows, the illegal trade of human organs like kidneys has also brought a bad name for Pakistan in recent years.

Pakistan and illegal kidney transplant business:

For example, this is what a prestigious British newspaper "The Guardian" had reported in May 2012: "The illegal trade in kidneys has risen to such a level that an estimated 10,000 black market operations involving purchased human organs now take place annually, or more than one an hour, World Health Organisation experts have revealed. Patients, many of whom will go to China, India or Pakistan for surgery, can pay up to $200,000 (nearly £128,000) for a kidney to gangs who harvest organs from vulnerable, desperate people, sometimes for as little as $5,000."

The media house had gone on to write: "The vast sums to be made by both traffickers and surgeons have been underlined by the arrest by Israeli police last week of 10 people, including a doctor, suspected of belonging to an international organ trafficking ring and of committing extortion, tax fraud and grievous bodily harm. Other illicit organ trafficking rings have been uncovered in India and Pakistan."

Quoting Luc Noel, a doctor and World Health Organisation (WHO) official, "The Guardian" had revealed: "Kidneys make up 75 per cent of the global illicit trade in organs. Rising rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems are causing demand for kidneys to far outstrip supply. Data from the WHO shows that of the 106,879 solid organs known to have been transplanted in 95 member states in 2010 (legally and illegally), about 73,179 (68.5 per cent) were kidneys. But those 106,879 operations satisfied just 10 per cent of the global need, the WHO said."

The Newspaper had asserted: "The organisation does not know how many cases involved the organ being obtained legitimately from a deceased donor or living donor such as a friend or relative of the recipient. But WHO's Luc Noel believes that one in 10 of those 106,879 organs was probably procured by black marketeers. If so, that would mean that organ gangs profited almost 11,000 times in 2010."

An American website had rightfully stated in February 2017: "In a world where morality is often nothing but a figment of our imagination, the 10 black market organ trade and trafficking facts, statistics, and stories will chill you to the bone. The organ trade industry is one of the most terrifying illegal enterprises with a global presence. According to the United Nations, there are three common scenarios for organ trade on the black market."

The website had maintained: "This despicable practice is a multi-billion dollar industry. In America alone, over 118,000 people are on the transplant list, with most being unable to gain access due to the lack of donors available. Unfortunately, organ donors are in short supply as many people are still unwilling to donate their organs after their death.

Global Financial Integrity's estimates in this context:

Not long ago, the "Global Financial Integrity," a Washington DC-based research and advocacy organization, had estimated that the illegal organ trade generated profits between $600 million and $1.2 billion per year, with a span over many countries.

Situation in the United States:

According to the American Transplant Foundation, 123,000 people in the United States are on the waiting list to receive an organ.

Every 12 minutes a new name is added to the list and an average of 21 persons per day die due to a lack of organ availability. Corneas, kidneys, liver, lung, intestines, bone marrow are the most common transplant needs.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services data of Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network had reported in 2016 that not fewer than 121,333 currently awaiting organ transplant of which 100,402 were waiting for a kidney.

Only 30,970 transplants actually took place (legally) in 2015.

World Health Organization statistics regarding this multi-billion dollar illegal business:

According to the World Health Organization, America is one of many organ-importing countries and by the use of the web, patients can get transplant packages from $70 to over $160,000.00.

Research shows that another American media outlet "The USA Today" had conducted an investigative report in 2006 and found that illegal body harvesting was very lucrative in the US due to the high demand of body parts.

The investigation revealed that from 1987- 2006 (19 years), over 16,800 families had pursued lawsuits stating that their loved ones body parts were illegally sold for an estimated $6 million dollars. That amount was based on figures obtained from federal and local investigators, public organizations and medical universities.

Situation in neighbouring India:

According to a June 2016 report of "The Hindu," over 2,000 kidneys are sold every year in India.

A 2015 report of the "Live Mint," an Indian daily business newspaper published by Hindustan Times Media, had stated: "In India, around 200,000 people need a kidney every year, but only around 3 per cent of the demand is met, says Dr Sunil Shroff, managing trustee of the Mohan Foundation, a Chennai-based non-government organization working on organ donation.

The doctor was further quoted as saying: "There is a demand and supply problem. Of these 200,000 in need of a kidney, around 15,000 can afford treatment but only 7,000 of these can afford transplants."

The WHO had estimated in 2007 that while organ trafficking accounted for 5-10 per cent of kidney transplants performed annually across the globe, around 2,000 Indians sold a kidney every year.

Ann Cheney, author of a book "Body Brokers: Inside America’s Underground Trade in Human Remains" had once stated "Today we aren’t robbing graves but we are violating corpses, we are failing to carry out donor wishes, and we are putting patients at risk- all because we have been disturbingly complacent about what happens to people’s bodies when they die."

 

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