Following the incidence of organ donation from the body of Hitendran who was brain dead due to a fatal accident there has been growing awareness of donating human organs by many. There are strict regulations promulgated on receiving the organs from such brain dead individuals and transplanting those organs to an appropriate patient awaiting those organs. But it is unfortunate that there are fraudsters who obdurately break the rules. During last May Manikandan from Kerala met with an accident in Kallakurichi. There is also a shocking news that there was fraudulent foul play of regulations on the dealing of donating his organs after he became brain dead. This has made both the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala ruffle up.
Eight musicians from Palghat in Kerala came to attend a wedding at Melmaruvathur. After the wedding, on May 18th, while returning to Palghat they met with an accident. They were admitted at Vinayaka Mission Hospital in Salem with the help of a private ambulance. The hospital management informed the family of Manikandan who was one among the accident victims, that he was brain dead. On donation, the heart of Manikandan was sent to Fortis Malar Hospital in Adyar and lungs were sent to Global Hospital in Perumbakkam.
In this condition, the relatives of Manikandan decry that ‘while there are patients waiting painstakingly for heart and lung transplantation in Tamil Nadu, after registration, both the organs were transplanted to foreign patients, having amassed huge amount from the deal’. The relatives of Manikandan complained to the Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinrayi Vijayan who in turn wrote to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Edappadi Palanisami, to take action against it. A committee was formed to investigate the scam by appointing its members, Thomas, Police Officer, Sivanraj, Cardiac Surgeon and Gopalakrishnan, Urologist from the Government.
The members of the Committee enquired at the Fortis Malar Hospital and Chennai Global Hospital. There was a complaint arising ‘from the investigation it was found out that the heart and lungs were transplanted to foreigners by bending the rules”.
“Despite there was an Indian patient waiting at Fortis Malar Hospital for heart transplantation the heart was transplanted to a foreigner. When the Committee enquired about it, the management replied that ‘The Chief Surgeon who is supposed to carry out heart transplantation to the patient in Tamil Nadu was out of station at that time. The patient told that he would undergo surgery only after the doctor came back. That is why we offered it to the foreigner’.
When enquired, ‘Ok, who conducted the surgery for the foreigner’, they informed that ‘the same Chief Surgeon only did the surgery’. When questioned, ‘but you have informed that the Chief Surgeon was out of station at that time’, they gave a contradicting reply that ‘he went out of station. But he came back before the transplantation for the foreigner’. The insiders who know the fact informed that, when the Enquiry Committee asked, ‘have you informed the patient from Tamil Nadu that there was a possibility of the Chief Surgeon coming back soon’, the hospital management remained silent.
At the Global Hospital too, there were a few from India waiting for lung transplantation. When they were questioned by the Enquiry Committee, they answered that ‘The lungs harvested from Manikandan were not in the condition to be fully used. They may become non-functional too. That was the reason they were transplanted to a foreigner’. But when they were asked, ‘have you informed the Indian patient and got his consent’, the answer seemed to be ‘no’. Similarly, when they were enquired, ‘have you informed the foreign patient or his relatives about the possibility of non-functioning of the lungs and received consensus’, there was the same contradicting answer that, ‘no, the lung was fully functional’.
As per the regulations for organ transplantation, ‘if there is a condition for a patient that warrants both the organs of heart and lungs to be transplanted, that patient should be given priority to receive the organs. In both Fortis Malar Hospital and Global Hospital, there are patients who are waiting for both the organs to be transplanted. When the Enquiry Committee asked “You could yourself have taken both the organs and transplanted to an individual”, the management of Global Hospital replied that, ‘The heart was not in a usable condition. That is why we used only the lungs’. Similarly, the management of Fortis Malar Hospital replied that, ‘The lungs were not in healthy condition. That is why we used only the heart”.
The Committee that enquired the surgeons and the management of both the hospitals, after gathering all relevant documental evidences about the lapses in prioritizing the recipient patients has submitted the report to the government. But the report is yet to be published. It is told that ‘there was pressure to rewrite the report. But the members of the Committee did not yield to it. That is why the report is still unrevealed’.
We asked Haridas, Manikandan’s younger brother about the issue. “After the accident they were admitted in Vinayaka Mission Hospital. The driver of the ambulance only took them there. Accident happened in Kallakurichi. Though there are many good hospitals nearby, why they were taken to a hospital that is 101 km away from the place of incidence? We went to the hospital after hearing the news. The Chief Doctor called and informed me that there was improvement in my brother’s condition. He told me to pay the bill immediately. I went home to make the amount ready.
As soon as I reached home there was a phone call that my brother was dead. We immediately went to the hospital. They informed me that my brother was brain dead. They insisted, ‘either pay the bill or donate the organs’. We agreed to it as there was no way out. They also said that the organs will be donaterd to Govt hospital . They returned the body after having harvested the organs and compelled us to ‘vacate the hospital premises before it dawns’. He implored that ‘we learnt only after having transplanted the organs of my brother to a foreigner that they did so after receiving humongous amount’.
We sought explanation from the management of Vinayaka Mission Hospital. On behalf of the hospital Dr Chandrasekar spoke to us. “As all of those who met with an accident were young, we gave them treatment without thinking of money. We did not ask them or receive even a single paisa from them. Vijayakumar, the owner of the vehicle only gave us the money. We informed the relatives of Manikandan that he was brain dead only after conducting 13 types of test and eventual confirmation. After explaining them about organ donation, they agreed to donate the organs. We informed about it to the government officials. Based on their guidance the private hospitals received the organs. Heart was taken by Fortis Malar Hospital whereas lungs were taken by Global Hospital. One kidney was taken by KMCH hospital in Kovai and another kidney was taken by our hospital and transplanted to one of our patients. All things happened with the consensus from the family of Manikandan. They remained quiet at that time. After reaching their village, they started blaming us unnecessarily having been negatively influenced by a politician over there”.
We enquired the management of Fortis Malar Hospital. The stated that “Generally, priority will be given to government hospitals to receive organs harvested like this. Only when these hospitals do not take the organs that it will be informed to the private hospitals. There are not facilities to bring those organs by air from Salem. The only way to bring those organs is on road. Within six hours the heart should be brought to the hospital. Otherwise, it will be rendered useless. No other hospital was willing to reach Salem to receive the organs. There was one in our hospital who needed it. We had already registered for the organ in advance. That is why we were allowed to receive the organ. There was no irregularity happened in this process”. The management of Global Hospital declined to provide any explanation about the incident.
We enquired Gandhimathi, Member Secretary, Transplant Authority of Tamil Nadu. She said that “I was not in office when this incident took place. I am not aware what happened actually”. Edwin Joe, Director, Tamil Nadu Medical Education Office, said that “There were no irregularities with regard to the donation of organs such as kidneys, lungs and liver harvested from Manikandan. There is enquiry happening by the Medical Experts Team. We shall release the report only if there were any mismanagement”.
Radhakrishnan, Health Secretary stated that, “The organs of Manikandan were received as donation only with the consent of his family members. It is learnt that all regulations were complied with on enquiry. There is enquiry going on by the Medical Experts. No one could mismanage in regard to the issue of organ donation. The regulations are numerous. And all things happen with utmost transparency. A few create rumours unnecessarily. We shall release the report as soon as the enquiry gets over”.
At present, efforts are being made to blame the contract employees who worked with the Transplant Authority of Tamil Nadu while allowing the culprits to escape.
With an intention to let someone affected to have a good life, the relatives of the victims try to donate the organs of their beloved ones. But it is quite unfortunate that there are people who try to trade over the humanitarian intentions of the donors for the greed of more money and time will never forgive them.
Lakhs for Indians …. Crores for foreigners!
More number of organ transplantation surgeries are taking place mostly in private hospitals. A few hospitals show more interest in doing organ transplantation for foreigners than the Indian patients. The reason is nothing but money. The price fixed for a heart or lung transplantation surgery by the government is Rs 25 lakhs. And it is Rs 35 lakhs to change both the organs of heart and lungs. But it is alleged that for the foreign patients the price for organ transplantation surgery ranges to many crores as fees. As per the insiders’ opinion a single heart transplantation surgery costs up to Rs 6 crores for foreign patients.
Both of them died!
There is many more shocking news emerged from this enquiry. The kidney harvested from Manikandan was not actually transplanted to the originally intended patient. Similarly, the heart was intended to be transplanted to a person from Ukraine. But it was transplanted to a patient from Lebanon. It is alleged that the Lebanese died shortly after transplantation as it was incompatible to him. The details of changing the recipient patient was not informed to the Transplant Authorities. Though there were five Indian patients on waitlist they were simply ignored and the lungs of Manikandan were transplanted to a patient from Israel who too died after the surgery.
(This article written in Tamil by V Neelakandan and R Senthilumar for Junior Vikatan magazine dt 9/9/18 has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)