Thursday, April 19, 2007

Am I making sense or is it the migraine?

Scott and I went to Ernavur ( a fishing community outside of Chennai) and spoke with several women who sold their kidneys to brokers and were cheated out of the majority of what they were promised. From there we followed the leads until we ended up in the office of someone who sits on the Transplant Ethics Committee who told us that they had unofficially sanctioned the organ trade for the last 13 years.

More than 500 people across the state of Tamil Nadu say they've sold their kidneys to organ brokers, in violation of a ban enacted in 1994. Since then, however, the agency responsible for enforcing the ban has frequently turned a blind eye. As a result, they were not able to take proper post-surgery care and were affected by severe health problems.

"We do everything in accordance with the letter of the law on paper, but we know that almost all of the documents we see are false," said a member of Tamil Nadu's Transplant Authorization Committee, who spoke to Wired News on condition of anonymity. "It is an open secret. It is either, approve a transplant with forged documents, or a patient is going to die."

Well, why do you think these people are driven to sell their kidney? Yes, they are absolutely poverty striken. Mostly, because of the Tsunami. It is very clear that the "dealing" is illegal. But how do you think this issue came out in the open. The Social Worker of this particular community , Eranavoor, where 36 women had sold their kidneys came forward to demand the cash they were promised. Even then, the (il)legality of the issue was not considered by the "victims" or the "Social Worker". I guess priorities change when one doesn't know if they are going to have the next meal.

Having said that, let me tell you the next scenario that I worked at- the nephrology department in a hospital. Here, majority of the patients, of all age groups, were undergoing dialysis. They mostly belonged to the lower socio economic backgroud, like the pwople who sold their kidneys. I came across the caregivers (mostly parents) of young patients who were desperate for money (one time dialysis costs Rs.900 and they had to undergo this procedure thrice a week till they find a kidney donor).

If you are still thinking what my point is, c'mon admit it. You are slow. I was in two scenarios- one in which I was trying to help children who were fighting for their lives and second in which I was trying to play my part in fighting against illegal organ (kidney) transplant. All of a sudden, I realized that I was supporting two causes that are against (almost) each other. What should really be done about this? Is there even a solution to this dilemma?

Scene 1-

What would you do if you became a mother at the age of 13 and 13 years later your daughter began having children? How would you respond when your daughter attempts to commit suicide by taking rat poison because her in-laws were harassing her for dowry she couldn't afford? When your daughter had medical bills she couldn't pay and the hospital threatened to kick her out on the street how far would you go? Would you sell a kidney to help her? How would you feel if after the procedure the broker you contacted absconded with most of the money she promised you AND you can't do anything much for a living as your body is faced with numerous complications?

Scene 2-

What would you do if your 12 year old son is struggling for his life? How would you react if your son was given a kidney that was NOT legally operated? How far would you go to save your son's life? Would you rather try to pay for his dialysis all his life or would you find a kidney broker and beg him to save his life? How would you feel if before the procedure you found out that hundereds of women are being cheated (financially) and have many physiological ailments because of the same broker?

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