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Healthline Connects

Calling Dr. Kumar: Real Life "Dirty, Pretty Things"


Sometimes you just hate being right. One of the reasons I got out of clinical nursing was that, as a floating critical care/ER nurse in a busy teaching hospital, I got tired of watching young poor kids come in through the ER with gunshot wounds, end up in a coma in the neuro ICU waiting for the surgeons to harvest their organs to transplant them into the people who could afford them and then care for the organ recipients in the surgical ICU. No matter how many lives are saved by transplants, we have to face the reality that the situation is ripe for exploitation.

Dirty, Pretty Things (2002), winner of the Best Independent British Film, 2003, written by Steven Knight, depicts the plight of illegal immigrants in the UK, who sell their organs in exchange for passports. Fiction?

CNN reported yesterday that police in India have cracked an international organ-trafficking ring. Organs harvested from the poor and sold to the wealthy, one Dr. Amit Kumar, a.k.a. Santosh Rameshwar Raut, the alleged mastermind. This same doctor had a previous arrest in 1994 for running a similar scheme in Bombay. He skipped bail and started up his "practice" in other cities. One doctor and patients were held - including two from the US. ABC reports that the two US citizens, dialysis patients, are forbidden to leave the country because they are suspected of waiting for illegal transplant operations. Dr. Kumar is on the lam and is thought to have fled India. CNN has video of the victims and their surgical wounds. Some were taken by force, being promised jobs, and nurses, doctors and medical technicians were involved in the procedures. Interpol reports that as many as 50 health care workers were involved in the racket. Punishment if a doctor is found guilty of illegal transplants in India? Two years jail time.

The dark side of medical tourism - foreigners travel to India for transplant surgery, because of availability of skilled doctors and lower costs. The sale of human organs is illegal in India. The Organ Transplant Act is being amended to allow only foreigners with medical visas and verified donors to be allowed transplants in India. NDTV.com reports that Dr. Kumar, who may be living in Canada, has eluded authorities for 14 years. Indian police report that the scale of the operation may be much larger than is known at this time. Demand for organs outstrips supplies due to rampant diabetes and hypertension induced kidney failure. Apparently these doctors buy a kidney from the poor for about $1000 and sell it for $50,000. With so many people living in poverty and desperation apparently there is nothing but a strong moral compass to prevent rampant exploitation.

Thank you anaxila for use of photo The Have and Have Nots
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The Healthline Editorial team writes about the latest health news, policy, and research.

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