In the wake of a protest by the medical fraternity over the arrest of doctors from Powai’s LH Hiranandani Hospital in the kidney racket case, Maharashtra Public Health Minister Deepak Sawant Saturday assured doctors of a “solution to remove fear psychosis” gripping transplant surgeons. He discussed the matter with a delegation comprising nephrologists, urologists and members of the Association of Medical Consultants (AMC) and Indian Medical Association (IMA).
Doctors raised issues pertaining to protection of medicos from being “framed” in illegal transplant cases. Some wanted the government to specify that doctors’ responsibility would be limited to actual transplant surgery. “The main demand was to free clinicians from responsibility of verifying documents submitted for organ transplants,” said a medic.
Sawant has reportedly assured the delegates of a “solution” within a week. Nephrologists and urologists had earlier threatened to stop conducting kidney transplants in Mumbai, following the arrest of the Hiranandani doctors.
On August 10, the Mumbai police arrested five senior doctors attached with the Powai-based hospital, including CEO Dr Sujit Chatterjee, medical director Dr Anurag Naik, nephrologist Mukesh Shete, and two urologists, Mukesh Shah and Prakash Shetty, and booked them under various sections of Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994, for their alleged role in the racket.
Afterwards, 200 doctors, attached with Mumbai Neohrologist Group, decided to not carry out kidney transplants. This was followed by a similar decision by another 300 doctors who are members of the Mumbai Urology Society.
The sections under which the medics were charged primarily dealt with negligence in authenticating documents and commercial gain through illegal organ transplants.
“Doctors will be scared to conduct kidney transplants now that these arrests have taken place, without much proof against them,” said Dr Sudhir Naik, president, AMC. According to urologist Dr Anup Ramani, doctors should not be made responsible for verifying authenticity of documents submitted by patients for transplants. Police are investigating whether the accused doctors had benefited financially from the racket.
On Saturday, the health minister told the delegates that an “accepted procedure” for approving transplant cases would be laid down afresh. He added that he would hold meetings with the law department and the medical education department in this regard.
So far in 2016, Mumbai recorded 62 cadaver kidney transplants. The Zonal Transplant Coordination Center, which facilitates cadaver organ transplant, has another 3,100 patients wait-listed for kidney transplants.
After the meeting with the minister, Mumbai Nephrologists Group and Mumbai Urologists Society declared that a decision on restarting transplants would be taken in their general body meeting. The IMA is supporting the nephrologists and urologists.
*How the racket was busted
On July 14, agent Brijendra Bisen was exchanging money with recipient Brijkishore Jaiswal’s son when they were caught red-handed by informer Abid Sheikh. Shaikh had come to the hospital with two policemen along with local activists Rajesh Pawar, Bhavin Mehta and Mahesh Tanna. Bisen’s arrest cracked the racket. He named agents Iqbal Khan and Bharat Shah who would forge documents for him. Their arrest led police to a pool of illegal cases resulting in the arrest of more agents and doctors, bringing a long list of donors and recipients under the scanner.