ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Networks of Morbidity

The challenge of curbing the organ trade goes beyond episodes of rackets.

There was a sense of déjà vu when two assistants of a nephrologist employed by a leading Delhi private hospital were arrested after media revelations of a kidney scandal. Though investigations are at an initial stage, the modus operandi of the alleged culprits seems horrifically similar to that of people nabbed eight years ago for running a kidney racket in Gurgaon. Luring the desperately poor into selling their organs, using fake documents and employing the facilities of a top hospital to harvest the illicitly acquired organs seem to be the stock-in-trade of those running this sordid business. As in the Gurgaon scandal of 2008, there are reports of an international angle to the affair. But the feeling that one is watching an action replay gets acute after gauging the response of the authorities. Their focus seems to be on cleaning up the organ trade which they believe can be cracked by intelligent sleuthing. As in 2008, the response has been directed at unravelling networks that facilitate this unlawful business.

This is not to belittle the significance of busting such networks. The medical anthropologist Lawrence Cohen has written how “kidney zones” in the country—areas where kidneys are sold in large numbers—have emerged through interactions between surgical entrepreneurs, people facing grave debt, and medical brokers.

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