Disgusting. They should find all the people involved and take their kidneys and see how they like it
Kidney Thefts Shock India
GURGAON, India — As the anesthetic wore off, Naseem Mohammed said, he felt an acute pain in the lower left side of his abdomen. Fighting drowsiness, he fumbled beneath the unfamiliar folds of a green medical gown and traced his fingers over a bandage attached with surgical tape. An armed guard by the door told him that his kidney had been removed.
Mr. Mohammed was the last of about 500 Indians whose kidneys were removed by a team of doctors running an illegal transplant operation, supplying kidneys to rich Indians and foreigners, police officials said. A few hours after his operation last Thursday, the police raided the clinic and moved him to a government hospital.
Many of the donors were day laborers, like Mr. Mohammed, picked up from the streets with the offer of work, driven to a well-equipped private clinic, and duped or forced at gunpoint to undergo operations. Others were bicycle rickshaw drivers and impoverished farmers who were persuaded to sell their organs, which is illegal in India.
Although several kidney rings have been exposed in India in recent years, the police said the scale of this one was unprecedented. Four doctors, five nurses, 20 paramedics, three private hospitals, 10 pathology clinics and five diagnostic centers were involved, Mohinder Lal, the police officer in charge of the investigation, said.
“We suspect around 400 or 500 kidney transplants were done by these doctors over the last nine years,” said Mr. Lal, the Gurgaon police commissioner.
The case has enthralled India’s newspapers. Editorial writers have been particularly incensed by the failure of the police to capture the main doctor, who has many names but was known most recently as Amit Kumar.
He was arrested in 1994 on suspicion of running a kidney transplant racket in Mumbai, but jumped bail, changed his name and set up work again from several clinics hidden in residential apartments in Gurgaon, a prosperous city outside Delhi.
The police raided one of his clinics in 2000, but somehow he was allowed to continue working. Officials neglected to investigate further even after at least one television investigation exposed his work.
On Tuesday, The Times of India called on the government to investigate “the nexus between the organ traders and the police.”
Investigators were alerted to the ring on Thursday by a donor who said the operation had ruined his health.
Apparently tipped off to the raid, Dr. Kumar escaped arrest. Only one of the four main doctors implicated has been detained.
The officials suspect that several private hospitals in Delhi and its suburbs were quietly complicit in Dr. Kumar’s work and treated patients recovering from kidney transplants.
“Due to its scale, we believe more members of the Delhi medical fraternity must have been aware of what was going on,” Mr. Lal told reporters on Monday.
He said a team of criminals he called kidney scouts usually roamed labor markets in Delhi and cities in Uttar Pradesh, one of India’s poorest states, searching for potential donors. Some prospects were asked outright if they wanted to sell a kidney and were offered $1,000 to $2,500.
A car equipped with testing equipment was often on hand so that potential donors could be checked immediately to see whether their kidneys matched the needs of prospective patients.
Letters and e-mail messages from 48 foreigners inquiring about transplants were discovered in Dr. Kumar’s office, Mr. Lal said. Five foreigners — three from Greece and two Indian-born American citizens — were found in one of the clinics during the raids. The police suspected that they were about to receive kidney transplants, Mr. Lal said, but they were allowed to return home because the evidence was insufficient to detain them.
Mr. Mohammed, 25, said Monday that he had no idea that it was possible to sell a kidney. He had been picking up odd jobs in Delhi for the past two years and sending money to his family in Gujarat, he said.
Two weeks ago, he was approached by a bearded man as he waited at the early-morning labor market by the Old Delhi train station, he said. The man offered him an unusually generous deal: one and a half months’ work painting, for a little less than $4 a day, with free food and lodging.
Mr. Mohammed said he was driven four or five hours, to a secluded bungalow, where he was placed in a room with four other young men, under the watch of two armed guards.
“When I asked why I had been locked inside, the guards slapped me and said they would shoot me if I asked any more questions,” Mr. Mohammed said, lying in a hospital bed, wrapped in an orange blanket, clenching his teeth and shutting his eyes in pain. He said the men were given food to cook and periodically nurses would take blood samples.
One by one, he said, they were taken away for operations.
“They told us not to speak to each other or we would pay with our lives,” he said. “I was the last one to be taken.”
Nearby in the drafty isolation ward at the Gurgaon Civic hospital, Shakeel Ahmed, 28, a laborer from Uttar Pradesh, said he, too, had been promised well-paid work. After days of confinement with Mr. Mohammed, Mr. Ahmed said, a blood sample was taken and a few hours later, against his will, he received an injection and lost consciousness.
“I had no idea about kidney transplants, but when they made me lie down on the stretcher, I was terrified,” he said. “I knew that these people meant to do evil to me. When I woke up, a doctor said my kidney had been removed. He said I would be shot if I ever told anyone what happened.”
The men said that they received no postoperative medical checks and that money or other compensation was not discussed.
Three police officers guard the ward.
“These are the main witnesses to the crime,” said Badlu Ram, a police inspector. “The operation was so well organized that we believe there may be a threat to their lives.”
Mr. Ahmed’s father, Abdullah Ahmed, sat on the edge of his son’s bed, weeping. The father said his son’s damaged health would keep him from working, leaving the family destitute.
“I don’t know what we will do,” he said. “The men who did this should be hanged.”