Organ trafficking Q&A: 'British patients offered illegal kidneys'
Secret recording shows 'international organ dealer' suggest $35,000 payment for kidney
BRITISH patients are reportedly being offered illegally trafficked kidneys by an "international organ dealer". According to The Times, the Bangalore-based dealer recommends a hospital in Colombo, Sri Lanka as a suitable place to receive an organ purchased for tens of thousands of pounds on the black market...
What has The Times revealed?
A Times journalist, posing as the relative of a Briton seeking a transplant overseas, secretly recorded a meeting with Antonio Kanickaraj, a dealer working for Mediease India, which specialises in organising medical tourism for international patients. At the meeting in Bangalore, Kanickaraj offered the journalist the chance to buy an organ from an Indian or British donor, with the transplant to be carried out at the Lanka Hospitals Corporation in Colombo because the "legality is much easier than in India". Kanickaraj said the surgery would cost $40,000, from which he would take commission. A further secret payment of up to $35,000 would be made to the donor, who would have to pretend to be offering the kidney at no cost in order to obtain legal clearance. While a transplant from a volunteer donor is legal, the buying and selling of human organs is banned by international law. Despite offering to do medical checks on the donor for a fee, Kanickaraj later denied offering "any assistance of finding a donor" to anybody.
What are the implications?
Lanka Hospitals Corporation is state-controlled and chaired by Gotobhaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka's defence secretary and the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaska. News that British patients are being told that such transplants can be conducted at a government-controlled hospital is set to fuel concerns about human rights and the rule of law in Sri Lanka, says The Times. However, the newspaper states that Kanickaraj and Mediease are unconnected to the hospital, and there is no suggestion that either the hospital or others connected with Mediease have engaged in any wrongdoing. The hospital insists all its transplants are carried out within the law and that it even requires extra checks for foreign patients.
How does organ trafficking operate?
The number of legitimate organs available for transplant worldwide has fallen, partly due to better road safety - fewer healthy young adults are dying in traffic accidents. Meanwhile, the number of people waiting for transplants has increased. As a result, organised criminals can make a fortune from unethical clinics who will buy organs for wealthy patients. Some victims are kidnapped and forced to give up an organ, while others are duped into believing they need an operation and the organ is removed without their knowledge. Some people sell their organs out of financial desperation, often seeing just a fraction of the profit, if anything at all, and placing their health at great risk.
How big is the problem?
International organ trafficking is a growing trade. According to the World Health Organisation, around one in ten organ transplants involves a trafficked human organ, which amounts to around 10,000 each year. Kidneys are the most commonly traded organ. A report by Global Financial Integrity estimates that the illegal organ trade generates between $600m and $1.2bn in profits a year. Patients might pay anything from $200,000 for a kidney to $1m for a heart.
Who is at risk?
The United Nations says that people of all ages could become targets but migrants, homeless people and those who cannot read are particularly vulnerable. Children are often targeted, especially those from poorer backgrounds or those with disabilities.
Where does it happen?
Donor countries include impoverished nations in South America, Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, according to a Harvard College study, while recipient countries include the US, Canada, Australia, the UK and Japan. Trafficking involves a whole host of offenders, from recruiters who identify the victims to transporters and hospital or clinic staff. Last year the Salvation Army revealed it had rescued a woman brought to the UK to have her organs harvested – which was thought to be the first case of its kind in this country. ·