News Brief

Chennai: Private hospitals favour foreigners over Indian patients for organ transplants, says report

Protocol dictates that Indian patients get first priority on the waiting list, followed by non-resident Indians and international patients.

Several private hospitals in Tamil Nadu’s Chennai may be unfairly favouring foreign transplant recipients over Indian patients on waiting lists for organs, The Hindu reported on Tuesday.

National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation Director Vimal Bhandari has notified officials on a WhatsApp group, which was set up to coordinate organ allocation, about an alleged organ transplant racket in Tamil Nadu.

The procedure for organ allocation in India prioritises Indian patients, followed by non-resident Indians and international patients. It involves a waiting list based on criteria that include the date of registration and the recipient’s medical condition. “Three of four hearts in Chennai were given to foreigners,” Bhandari told the daily.

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare official advised the Transplant Authority of Tamil Nadu to form a committee to inquire into the allegations. The Directorate General of Health Services convened a meeting in New Delhi and framed strict rules governing organ allocation to foreigners after the alleged scam came to light.


In 2017, international patients underwent 25% of all heart transplants in the state and 33% of lung transplants in Chennai.

The report says international patients underwent 31 heart transplants, 32 lung transplants, and 32 heart and lung transplants. Doctors in Tamil Nadu conducted 91 heart transplants, 75 lung transplants, and 6 heart and lung transplants.

There were 53 foreigners and 5,310 Indians on the waiting list as of June 9.

Official resigns

Meanwhile, the state health department has accepted the resignation of Transplant Authority of Tamil Nadu member secretary Dr P Balaji. Balaji, who quit citing “personal reasons”, said the organs were allocated in accordance with the guidelines.

“We allowed the organ to go to international patients only after the private hospitals confirmed on the WhatsApp group that there were no Indian patients eligible for the transplantation,” The Hindu quoted Balaji as saying. “Though some hospitals initially proposed the hearts for Indian patients, they made a change at the last minute, saying that the patient had developed fever or that there were logistical difficulties, and hence the organ would be given to a foreigner.”

He said that the organisation has to go by what the transplant surgeon of a hospital says. “There is no mechanism to ascertain the genuineness of the claim made by doctors that Indian patients suddenly developed fever or cold,” he pointed out.

A deputy superintendent of police is heading an investigation into allegations that certain organ donations from cadavers did not have the consent of the families of the deceased and were donated to foreign recipients.

In May, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to his Tamil Nadu counterpart Edappadi K Palaniswami seeking an inquiry into a similar case.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Do you really need to use that plastic straw?

The hazards of single-use plastic items, and what to use instead.

In June 2018, a distressed whale in Thailand made headlines around the world. After an autopsy it’s cause of death was determined to be more than 80 plastic bags it had ingested. The pictures caused great concern and brought into focus the urgency of the fight against single-use plastic. This term refers to use-and-throw plastic products that are designed for one-time use, such as takeaway spoons and forks, polythene bags styrofoam cups etc. In its report on single-use plastics, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has described how single-use plastics have a far-reaching impact in the environment.

Dense quantity of plastic litter means sights such as the distressed whale in Thailand aren’t uncommon. Plastic products have been found in the airways and stomachs of hundreds of marine and land species. Plastic bags, especially, confuse turtles who mistake them for jellyfish - their food. They can even exacerbate health crises, such as a malarial outbreak, by clogging sewers and creating ideal conditions for vector-borne diseases to thrive. In 1988, poor drainage made worse by plastic clogging contributed to the devastating Bangladesh floods in which two-thirds of the country was submerged.

Plastic litter can, moreover, cause physiological harm. Burning plastic waste for cooking fuel and in open air pits releases harmful gases in the air, contributing to poor air quality especially in poorer countries where these practices are common. But plastic needn’t even be burned to cause physiological harm. The toxic chemical additives in the manufacturing process of plastics remain in animal tissue, which is then consumed by humans. These highly toxic and carcinogenic substances (benzene, styrene etc.) can cause damage to nervous systems, lungs and reproductive organs.

The European Commission recently released a list of top 10 single-use plastic items that it plans to ban in the near future. These items are ubiquitous as trash across the world’s beaches, even the pristine, seemingly untouched ones. Some of them, such as styrofoam cups, take up to a 1,000 years to photodegrade (the breakdown of substances by exposure to UV and infrared rays from sunlight), disintegrating into microplastics, another health hazard.

More than 60 countries have introduced levies and bans to discourage the use of single-use plastics. Morocco and Rwanda have emerged as inspiring success stories of such policies. Rwanda, in fact, is now among the cleanest countries on Earth. In India, Maharashtra became the 18th state to effect a ban on disposable plastic items in March 2018. Now India plans to replicate the decision on a national level, aiming to eliminate single-use plastics entirely by 2022. While government efforts are important to encourage industries to redesign their production methods, individuals too can take steps to minimise their consumption, and littering, of single-use plastics. Most of these actions are low on effort, but can cause a significant reduction in plastic waste in the environment, if the return of Olive Ridley turtles to a Mumbai beach are anything to go by.

To know more about the single-use plastics problem, visit Planet or Plastic portal, National Geographic’s multi-year effort to raise awareness about the global plastic trash crisis. From microplastics in cosmetics to haunting art on plastic pollution, Planet or Plastic is a comprehensive resource on the problem. You can take the pledge to reduce your use of single-use plastics, here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of National Geographic, and not by the Scroll editorial team.