| Editorial , Ceylon Today

( April 29, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Some unscrupulous Sri Lankan doctors have allegedly made a fortune by luring poor Indian men to sell their kidneys, which were then transplanted in new recipients who coughed up on average 4-5 million rupees for their organ transplants. Information revealed by three Indian agents who were arrested by the Police in Andhra Pradesh is sickening. Police say that the suspects who themselves had sold their kidneys to rogue Sri Lankan doctors have facilitated the sale of 21 kidneys of poor Indian villagers during the last several months.

Worse still, Police say many of those hapless Indian kidney donors have been duped by Lankan doctors. One such victim, known as Kiran was quoted in the flagship Indian newspaper, the Times of India, as saying that though he was initially promised a half a million rupees, doctors after removing his kidney paid him only Rs 390,000. Those very doctors had been making a fortune, charging 4-5 million rupees from the patients in order to transplant those unlawfully obtained kidneys.

What has allegedly taken place in some of those state-of-the art private hospitals in Sri Lanka is a mafia- styled exploitation of the poor and the vulnerable. The lax legal regulations governing organ transplant in Sri Lanka and the sense of urgency of the life saving operation has been exploited by the unscrupulous entities in the medical profession to make a fast buck at the expense of poor and vulnerable donors and equally helpless recipients.

Incriminating details unearthed by the Indian police have proved a nexus between some of the local doctors, Indian agents, donors and recipients. Some rogue doctors have operated safe havens for unscrupulous organ donors and paid their expenses during their stay in Sri Lanka as part of a monetary package that the donors have been promised in return for their kidneys.

It is disturbing that the Government Medical Officers' Association (GMOA), which has regularly been speaking up for the professional rights of the doctors is maintaining a deafening silence on the scam. Such a silence could well be opportunistic.

The Ministry of Health has launched a probe on all kidney transplant operations performed from January 2013 to April 2014 at private hospitals in the country.

Director, Private Medical Institutions Development Unit, Dr. Kanthi Ariyaratne, has been instructed to investigate the donors, the surgeons and medical teams that performed transplant operations and as to whether any exchange of money had taken place or any third party had been involved in obtaining kidneys .

Sri Lanka has recently been eying to become a hub for medical tourism. However, in a rush to attract more medical tourists, the country's medical authorities have turned a blind eye to the breach of established ethical practices of medicine. Why the Indians flock to Sri Lanka to undergo kidney transplants was obvious and it ought to have been a cause for concern. The Indian law dictates that no one except near relatives can donate organs without the permission of the authorization committee appointed by the Indian health officials. That committee looks into the finances, background and intentions of the donor and his relationship with the recipient in order to ascertain whether there is any form of financial transaction between the two.

Whereas the regulations on organ transplant in Sri Lanka is vague, especially when both the donor and the recipient are foreigners. This particular lacuna has been exploited by the rogue doctors and organ agents, turning Sri Lanka into a black market for illicit organ transplants.

The Health Ministry should act with a sense of urgency to combat organ trafficking and other assorted medical crimes in Sri Lanka, before it blemishes the image of the country.