A hurried airlift of a 19-year-old daily wage labourer from Thanjavur to a private hospital in Chennai on Monday night, announcing him brain dead on Tuesday morning, and his liver and kidney donated to AIADMK leader V K Sasikala’s husband M Natarajan, who underwent a liver transplant at the same hospital later in the day, has raised some eyebrows.
The teen organ donor, N Karthik, a native of Pudukkottai district, was admitted to Government Medical College Hospital, Thanjavur, on September 30 with severe head injuries and bone fractures.
“As his status remained critical, he was airlifted to Gleneagles Global Hospitals in Chennai on Monday, where he was declared brain dead. Since he was not declared brain dead at Thanjavur medical college, we could not find anything illegal in the preliminary inquiry in shifting him to a private hospital,” a senior health department official said on Wednesday.
But a senior professor from a government medical college said the entire episode – of discharging a daily wage labourer from government medical college to airlift him to a Chennai private hospital – deserves “attention”. The professor said, “If it was allegedly to jump the queue of Transplant Authority of Tamil Nadu (TANSTAN) waiting list, it has to be probed. How did a daily wage labourer’s family pay the bills for air ambulance (around Rs 2 lakh)? Was this orchestrated to save the life of a privileged patient while denying the same to those on the TANSTAN waiting list? Was there an organised network on behalf of the VIP patient to track down all potential donors in hospitals across the state?”
Reports from the hospital, and from those close to Sasikala family, on Wednesday said the dual organ transplant surgery on Natarajan, 74, lasted for seven-and-a-half hours and was successful.
According to the health department official, Karthik was taken by road from Thanjavur to Trichy and was flown to Chennai in an air ambulance around midnight. Neurologists at Gleneagles Global Health City declared him brain dead around 10.30 am Tuesday.
Amid a controversy and allegations that a poor labourer was made an organ donor to a VIP patient, Gleneagles issued a clarification on Wednesday evening and said that Karthik’s family was “counselled regarding organ donation and they provided their consent to donate his organs (liver, heart, lungs and kidneys)”. The statement said the heart was donated to a 43-year-old man from Tamil Nadu, the lung was allocated to a 62-year-old from UP. The “liver and kidney were allocated to a 74 year old gentleman who was on top of the combined liver-kidney transplant waiting list,” it said, indicating Natarajan.
All three patients are recuperating, the hospital said.
TANSTAN’s chief programme manager P K Sreekumar told The Indian Express there was nothing illegal in the organ transplantation involving Natarajan. He said TANSTAN could not probe on financial aspects involved in the airlifting of a patient. “We are only a regulatory body. Technically, the hospital followed all procedures. Natarajan was waiting for liver since last April. As his condition deteriorated, his case was flagged for a combined transplantation (liver and kidney),” he said.
Regarding the allegations of shifting Karthik from Thanjavur medical college to Chennai, the Gleneagles statement said the family decided to move him
“for second opinion and specialised care”.
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