Organ transplant tourism is on the rise in the wake of persistent supply shortage, the World Health Organisation has noted.
It has pleaded strongly against the undesirable practice of preying upon poorer nations by patients from the developed countries of the West. Demand for human organ transplants far exceeds supply, WHO said after a meeting of experts on the issue.
The kidney is the most sought-after organ with the 66,000 transplanted in 2005. That covered only covering 10 per cent of the estimated need, said WHO. In the same year 21,000 livers and 6,000 hearts were transplanted.
Both kidney and liver transplants are on the rise, but demand is also increasing and remains unmatched, the WHO said.
It went on to note it was encouraging the developed nations to make use more of the organs of their own deceased people instead of letting their citizens buy them from developing countries.
Because a person can live with only one kidney, people in poor countries may be lured into selling one of them to a person in need, it noted.
Only recently the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu was rocked by a huge scandal involving the selling of kidneys by a number of poverty-stricken tsunami survivors.
Especially the womenfolk were coming forward to 'donate' one of their kidneys to tide over the crisis resulting from dislocation after the tsunami of 2004 December.
They were not paid the money they were promised by middlemen. Worse they complained of a variety of physical problems after the removal of a kidney. They could not attend to even the small jobs they used to do in the past to supplement their income.
Critics had also complained that patients from well-off sections and middlemen were making use of some loopholes in the laws governing organ transplant. They also had suggested support to NGO initiatives for transplant of organs from 'brain-dead' persons. Procedures governing kidney transplant in the state have since been tightened up, the government claims.
The situation is said to be far worse in Pakistan. 40-50 per cent of the residents of some villages have only one kidney because they have sold the other for a transplant into a wealthy person, probably from another country, said Dr Farhat Moazam of Pakistan, one of the participants in the WHO meeting.
Moazam said Pakistani donors are offered USD 2,500 for a kidney, but in the end they receive only about half of that because middlemen take the rest.
In Western countries, package deals are advertised on the Internet ranging from USD 12,000 to USD 20,000 to receive a kidney and seven days of hospitalisation in a transplant country, Moazam said.
Such a situation has to be reversed forthwith, the WHO urged.