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.

Statistics

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.

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