Rewind Kidney racket: Probe into three transplants at a standstill

According to senior health officials, the new guidelines will subsequently make the DHS the authority to probe such cases.

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai | Published: January 17, 2017 3:48:57 am
The racket was busted at the Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital; (left) Sunder Singh, one of the whistleblowers. Express The racket was busted at the Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital. Express Photo

Exactly six months after the police along with whistleblowers busted an illegal kidney racket at Powai’s Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital, investigations into the multiple cases that surfaced subsequently remain sluggish with the police and the state health department blaming each other for delay in submitting reports. Investigation into at least three other cases remains pending as the Directorate of Health Services (DHS) waits for new standard operating procedures for live organ transplants to be formulated. A fourth case is also pending, but DHS officials have almost cleared it of any wrongdoing.

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According to senior health officials, the new guidelines will subsequently make the DHS the authority to probe such cases. “Until then, the inquiry into remaining cases will remain pending,” said a DHS official. Previously, a three-member DHS committee was probing the kidney transplants to aid the police on alleged violations to the Transplantation of Human Organs Act.

In October 2016, the police filed a 1,100-plus pages chargesheet in an illegal kidney transplant — that was halted midway on July 14 — between Nadiad-based donor Shobha Thakur (42) and Surat businessman Brijkishor Jaiswal (48). Jaiswal succumbed to renal failure on August 31 last year. The transplant was stopped and Thakur lost a part of her ribs in the surgery.

Subsequently, five doctors from Hiranandani hospital, including medical director and CEO, were arrested in August, two others, Dr Suvin Shetty and Dr Veena Sewlikar, were arrested in December 2016. Based on confessions made by the arrested accused, a complaint filed by another patient and suspected cases alerted by the hospital itself, the police asked the DHS to probe four other cases of illegal kidney donation.

When contacted, Dr Satish Pawar, director, DHS, said, “We have to check the status of investigations.” A spokesperson for Hiranandani hospital said the hospital did not want to comment on the status of the investigations.

Martha Johny Khavari
In August 2016, a month after the kidney racket came to light, Virar-based Martha registered a complaint with the Powai police and the DHS, requesting a probe into her daughter’s death who underwent a kidney transplant on April 8, 2014, in Hiranandani hospital.

According to the complaint, Rufina Khavari worked as a domestic maid at a Thane-based couple’s flat. In April 2014, she collapsed at the couple’s flat and was rushed from Thane to Hiranandani hospital, where doctors diagnosed her with renal failure and advised an urgent transplant. Khavari (60) has claimed she donated one kidney to her daughter on April 8, 2014. Thirteen months later, Rufina suffered abdominal pain and passed away.

In her complaint, Khavari suspects her kidney was never transplanted into her daughter, and the employers paid Rs 6 lakh to the hospital for transplant and an additional sum of Rs 17,000 to Khavari’s son. “I believe my kidney was not given to my daughter and we were duped. Why would her employers pay so much for her surgery,” she has questioned in her complaint.

DHS officials probing the case sent a notice to Hiranandani hospital on August 29, 2016. The hospital’s reply, in possession with The Indian Express, denies allegations of any wrongdoing. The hospital also claimed that it is “not aware of any financial dealings between employer and patient”.

The DHS has still not accessed Rufina’s medical records from Hiranandani hospital. Apart from Khavari’s statement and a reply from the hospital denying all allegations of illegal transplant, the investigation into the case is at a standstill since September 2016.

Sunder Singh and Dimple Manak Himmatramka

Sunder Singh donated his kidney posing as a brother to 37-year-old Dimple Himmatramka, a Gujarat resident, on April 16, 2016. He was one of the whistleblowers in the kidney racket case. Medical documents scrutinised by the DHS show there were several discrepancies in the documentation filed by donor and recipient. Permission for the transplant was granted by the hospital’s local authorisation committee.

Form 10 that is filled for live organ transplants had overwriting. The height and weight of donor was also overwritten. Date of birth of donor Singh is different in his Aadhar card from the one in birth certificate. The human leukocyte antigen (HLA) test, to measure compatibility of donor and recipient, did not match, but the transplant was still carried out using immunosuppressants. The most important observation by the DHS was that while Singh, a daily-wager, was admitted in a common ward, the recipient was admitted in a special room at the Hiranandani hospital.

“For a brother and sister undergoing transplant, this should have raised suspicion even in hospital that donor is admitted in common ward while the sister is put up in a special room,” said a DHS official.

The investigations at the state government level include a video-recorded statement of Singh in which he claims the role of nephrologist Dr Mukesh Shete in the entire racket. The DHS also recorded Himmatramka’s brother Mukesh Roongta’s statement but, despite several requests to police, Himmatramka was not presented for a detailed statement. The investigations into the illegal transplant between Singh and Himmatramka came to a standstill in October 2016.

Singh (23) was diagnosed with chicken pox a month before transplant. But he still underwent a transplant faking his age as 29 years on documents. Residential proofs of Himmatramka living in Kandivali were also found to be fake.

Harshaben Kevadia and Rasilaben Kantharia
The Gujarat-based donor and recipient underwent a transplant under Dr Mukesh Shah and Dr Prakash Shetty on May 2, 2016. Days later, Rasilaben Kantharia (36) died after her body could not accept the donated left kidney by Harshaben Kevadia (42).

In its investigation, the DHS observed that the signatures of both donor and recipient in all the documents were done by the same person. “We do not know whether it was Harshaben or Rasilaben who forged signatures,” said a state government official.

The Form 10, which is filled by both donor and recipient to apply for approval of live kidney transplant, was also found “doubtful” by the DHS committee. The DHS also found that blood reports submitted were not of actual donor Kevadia, but of biological sister of Kantharia so that the compatibility test of donor and recipient could be presented for transplant approval. In such situations, the transplant may get affected as surgeons use a certain quantity of immunosuppressants on recipient based on HLA and blood reports.

Kantharia was scheduled to undergo a follow-up with Dr Rajesh Kumar at Hiranandani hospital after discharge, but she died before the check-up could be done. A person named Sureshbhai Katheria was shown as brother of Kevadia and acted as witness for the transplant documents.

According to the DHS, the donor’s address of Virar and recipeint’s address of Girgaum Chowpatty were also false. In September last year, a request was made to the Powai police to present donor Kevadia and the family of the deceased recipient. The statement of both, however, have still not been recorded. Rewind

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