By Nita Bhalla
NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A prestigious Indian hospital said on Monday it was duped by traffickers into removing the kidneys of victims believing they were relatives of needy patients, after five people were arrested for the crime.
Police on Thursday busted an illegal organ harvesting racket operating out of the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, one of city's top private hospitals. They have since arrested five people, including two assistants of a senior hospital doctor.
The traffickers allegedly lured poor people into selling their kidneys for 300,000 rupees ($4,480) and then re-selling the organs on the black market at huge profit.
Fake identification documents were used to fool the hospital that the victims were relatives of recipients, which is permitted under Indian law.
Indraprastha Apollo Hospital admitted it had unwittingly removed organs from victims and said it was co-operating with police in their investigation of the alleged kidney sale racket.
"While all due precautions were conducted, the use of fake and forged documents was used for this racket with a criminal intent," said a statement from the hospital sent to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"The hospital has been a victim of a well-orchestrated operation to cheat patients and the hospital. We urge the police to take the strictest of action against all those involved."
Two of the five arrested suspects were personal assistants to a senior nephrologist employed at the hospital, but were not on the hospital's payroll, the statement said.
A chronic shortage of organs available for transplant fuels a booming black-market trade in body parts in India.
Commercial trade in organs is illegal in India and transplant donations must be approved by a special transplant committee at each hospital.
The First Information Report, or FIR, registered by police said victims were lured from all over India - including the eastern states of West Bengal and the southern state of Tamil Nadu - to come to Delhi and sell their kidneys.
Traffickers then used forged documents to get them admitted into the Apollo Hospital for the necessary procedure.
The total number of victims involved is still being investigated but five cases have been identified so far.
The failure of Apollo hospital's transplant committee to identify the fraudulent documentation has also been questioned, but the hospital said it had followed all legal requirements.
"The hospital, in order to ensure compliance with the law and diligence in process has an independent body with external members also for according consent for any transplant surgery," said the statement.
"This Committee goes through all documents necessary to ensure that requirements under the Act are complied with. Further, the hospital has ensured that all due process as per the law has been followed."
(Reporting by Nita Bhalla, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)