The Kidney Racket in the Jaffna Hospital

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A kidney transplant is a surgical procedure to place a healthy kidney from a living or deceased donor into a person whose kidneys no longer function properly. A kidney transplant is usually done to treat kidney failure. People with kidney failure may be able to have a kidney transplant.  Kidney transplant provides a better quality of life for them. A kidney transplant is one of the most common organ transplant surgeries performed today.

An alarming surge in renal diseases, diabetes and high blood pressure is driving the global demand for kidneys. A patient with a kidney failure has limited options and many are willing to undergo kidney transplantation. But kidney transplantation is an expensive process. Rich kidney patens are willing to pay a large sum of money for the operation as well as to the donors. 

Organ Trafficking is one type of human trafficking where people are trafficked so that their organs can be sold to be used in transplants and it’s illegal. Due to the absence of a comprehensive regulation on legal donation of organs and this existing act have no guiding regulations under it. As a result some Sri Lankan doctors were attracted to this illegal trade.

In 2016 the Indian Police arrested five top doctors from Mumbai’s elite Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital, including its CEO and medical director, for their alleged involvement in a sophisticated organ-harvesting racket. Under Indian law, only close relatives can donate their kidneys to patients in need. However in Sri Lakan law there are many loopholes and the racketeers can take great advantage.  
 
The Indian Police indicated that illegal kidney transplants conducted in Sri Lanka and a number of Sri Lankan doctors are working with this mafia. Over the years   Sri Lanka has become the illegal kidney transplant hub. According to Miranda Prynne – news reporter of the Telegraph,  British patients waiting for organ transplants are being offered surgery using illegally trafficked kidneys at a Government-controlled hospital in Sri Lanka.
  
Selling kidneys or any organ is illegal in Sri Lanka. But buying and Transplantation of kidneys with a corresponding donor has become a new trend. Kidneys are on sale for tens of thousands of dollars with promises to arrange covert surgery at the hospital in Colombo

Over the years Sri Lanka has become the biggest black market for organs especially for kidneys. It has been reported that many illegal kidney transplant operations were carried out in private hospitals in Sri Lanka. Therefore Sri Lanka has attracted kidney buyers from India, Malaysia, Thailand and the United States. According to the Indian Journalist Nishtha Chugh Colombo based private hospitals offer complete packages” to foreign recipients, with prices ranging from $53,000 to $122,000.

Organ trafficking and transplant tourism has become a multi-million rupee racket in the South Asian region which basically requires a donor, a nephrologist , a skilled surgeon  and an operating theatre. The Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act allow persons unrelated to patients to donate organs out of “love and affection”. This has been used by traders to transplant organs from illegal donors to patients in return for money.

The Black Market for human organs has proved to be thriving over the years in the Jaffna Peninsula. In the most recent turn of events the black market for the illegal trades of human organs takes place in the Jaffna Teaching Hospital. The Nephrologist of the   Jaffna Teaching Hospital Dr. Ranga Migara Weerakkody is believed to be behind this mafia. Jaffna has become a ground for buying a kidney on the black market.
 
It has been reported that top Sri Lankan private hospitals are secretly buying kidneys from poor Tamil youth in Jaffna to sell to rich patients. People from weaker socio-economic sections have become the victims of the illegal organ trade. Illegal organ trade is prevailing between Jaffna and Colombo. Sri Lanka is becoming biggest organ market in Asia.

It was reported that  poor Tamil youth in the North were selling their kidneys to brokers in Jaffna. Brokers find donors who are willing to sell their kidneys on the black market. Most of these donors are poor youth from the Jaffna Peninsula. The brokers mostly target healthy and non-smoking male donors in their 20s or early 30s. The kidney broker who arranges the transactions gets a US$ 700 commission. These donors are paid 500, 000 Sri Lankan Rupees and the recipient pays nearly 4 million rupees for the kidney. A large sum of money is paid to the doctors who are operating in this racket. To avoid any legal barriers to surgery, the donor would claim the kidney was being offered for free on humanitarian grounds.  

Once the Surgeon is ready to do the transplant the donor is undergoing basic tests in the Jaffna Hospital under Dr.  Ranga Migara Weerakkody and, if everything is satisfactory the broker brings the donor to Colombo for the surgery.  Over the years asylum seekers were selling their kidneys so they could pay to get on a boat to Australia. A three-year News Corp investigation has found almost 100 desperate Australians have paid to have an illegal transplant overseas because demand for organs here outstrips supply. Sri Lankan Refugee advocate Samuel Chandrahasan says around 500 Sri Lankan refugees have sold their organs in the last three years. Their kidney function assessments were done by Dr. Ranga Migara Weerakkody.

Although the Transplantation Of Human Tissues Act (No. 48 of 1987)– for kidney transplants done in private hospitals, for both local and foreign patients, include seeking approval from the Health Ministry for each operation many surgeries are performed secretly in major private hospitals. Sri Lankan doctors can be banned from practicing if found guilty. But organ trafficking mafia in Sri Lanka is very powerful and they know that they are untouchable. Therefore this illegal trade is booming in the North.

By a special correspondent

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