Organ trafficking

T is Pakistan`s shameful open secret that despite having passed legislation and set up regulatory authorities, the trafficking of human organs almost always kidneys continues. The incidence of this practice was at its highest around the turn of the millennium, and subsequently an estimated 2,000 vended kidneys were being transplanted per year. The passage of the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Ordinance in 2007, and then the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act in 2010 brought about a steep drop in the numbers, and it was hoped that the legislation, along with the promotion of cadaveric donation, would finally bring to an end this heinous form of exploitation. Regrettably, this has not been the case. As illustrated by an investigation by this newspaper last month, the numbers have been rising again over the past couple of years, and the tactics used to trap victims are becoming more extreme. In recent days, police carried out a raid on a building in Rawalpindi and recovered 24 would-be organ `donors` who were being kept there in detention, having been stripped of their mobile phones and identity papers, etc. All of them desperately poor, these people had been drawn into the net of kidney trafficking gangs with the promise of being paid enough to create a much better life for themselves.

Though the trade of human organs is criminalised, it is argued by some that the `donors` agree to their part of the bargain knowingly and willingly. That is distortion of the ugliest variety. The people freed by the police in the recent Rawalpindi case include brick kiln workers, bonded labourers and daily-wage earners in other words, the poorest sections of society. `Choice`, in their case, is a meaningless concept. The scale of their exploitation merits the state acting with far more urgency than it has so far demonstrated, the first part of its challenge being the reform of the human organ transplant authorities in all the provinces. It is the job of these authorities to ensure that transplants do not involve organs obtained through coercion or payment. A few arrests were made in the recent raid, and one Rawalpindi hospital suspected of being involved in this crime was sealed on Thursday. Much more, however, needs to be done; all those colluding in this practice, at all levels, from agents to surgeons, need to be brought before the law.

Source: Daily Dawn

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