Selling kidneys online: Govt cannot avoid responsibility

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

The promptness of the law enforcement agencies in using social media to prevent various sorts of crimes is quite eye-catching. However, it is quite surprising that an illegal kidney market has developed on social media platform Facebook and they are yet to take any action regarding this. It is learned that some 200-250 Facebook groups have been opened to run this fraudulent business.

The sellers and buyers in these groups are also seen to bargain over the price of the kidney. Some 800,000 to 1 million people are active members of these groups. This figure is evidence of the massive the number of people being affiliated with this illegal business. Despite knowing this, neither the law enforcement agencies, nor the health ministry has taken any action to stop the illegal selling of kidneys through Facebook. The issue came up in an investigative report of Prothom Alo published on Thursday.

According to the country's law, only a kidney donated by a close relative can be transplanted. Now it is not possible to meet the kidney demand of the country through only the close relatives. About 5,000 kidney transplants are needed in the country every year. However, the hospitals in our country do not even have the capacity to transplant 500 kidneys annually. Affluent people go abroad, especially to India, for this.

A multilevel agent syndicate has sprung up for maintaining the whole process of kidney transplantation including finding the donor, donor’s health check-up, arranging the visas and passports for the donor, taking the donor abroad and taking care of him or her abroad.

This syndicate includes a variety of people, including influential personalities, hospital managers and so on. Usually poor and weak people are sought as kidney donors. Usually poor and weak people are sought as kidney donors. Therefore, these donors do not even get the full payment. After losing an organ falling into the trap of the agents, it’s the donors who get death threats and are on the run eventually.

The Kalai upazila of Joypurhat has already turned into a notorious place for selling kidneys illegally. Walking on the streets of this upazila, anyone will see people who have donated a kidney every now and then. Those who are donating kidneys are getting involved in this dangerous business eventually. They are being used to lure by spreading that donating kidneys does not cause any harm to health.

Although the Joypurhat district police have been active in this regard at different times, this illegal business has been booming instead of declining.

And now, this harmful trend has also spread in neighbouring Panchbibi upazila. However, because of Facebook, this business is no longer limited to Joypurhat only. People from Gaibandha, Bogura, Kurigram and other neighbouring districts of the country are also getting involved in it.

Prothom Alo’s special correspondent says the cyber unit of police can easily close down these Facebook groups if they want. It is not so hard to take action against people affiliated with the entire process either. However, they seem to be ignoring the issue. Even many members of the police buy kidneys for their relatives or near ones from these Facebook pages.

Since 2011, only fifteen cases have been lodged in this regard. None of these have been prosecuted. Police reports in these cases are not up to the mark either. The accused gets out on bail and continues to do the same business in need of money.

The accused are out on bail and are continuing the same activities again. In 2019, a High Court ruling to bring order in the entire process of kidney transplantation and called for amendments in the law to create more scopes for the donors, formation of a certification board to carve the sale of kidneys illegally.

The Ministry of Health, however, paid no heed. Through this, is not the government encouraging the illegal sale of kidney which made many people victims of fraud? A clear legal framework should be formed urgently to restore order in the process of kidney transplantation. A national committee for kidney transplantation and monitoring may also be constituted under that Act. We want an end to the government's indifference.