- Organ trafficking claims a life yet again
Up until 2007 Pakistan was considered one of the premier destinations in the world for procuring a kidney illegally due to the absence of any law restricting the trade and an abundance of supply owing to crippling poverty in the country. That year, Senate passed the ‘Transplantation of Human Organs and Human Tissue Ordinance’ (THOTO) that became a law in 2010. Among its other features, the law makes it mandatory for the donor to be a blood relative of the recipient, providing genuine consent to donate his or her kidney. In Punjab, for example, where most of the transplants in the country take place, hospitals have government approved panels that check the bona fides of the parties involved in each case. These new restrictions naturally gave birth to a black market for organ transplants, especially since private and government run hospitals had to start following strict procedures before allowing any transplant surgeries to take place. This is evidenced by the recent case of famous comedian Umar Sharif’s daughter’s death at the hands of Dr Fawad Mumtaz who is notorious for performing illegal transplant surgeries and running an organ trafficking racket; he has since fled and is in hiding to avoid arrest. Dr Mumtaz is no stranger to the legal authorities who had arrested him previously for the same offence that carries a 10-year prison sentence. An inefficient legal system provided him bail in that case after which he has continued his deadly practice. The surgery on Sharif’s daughter was performed somewhere in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, which shows that although there is a vigilant eye of the FIA and Human Organ Transplant Authority on the activity, it is still taking place in relatively more remote, less surveilled areas in the country.
It is imperative that the legal system provides no opportunity to organ traffickers, especially those who violate their Hippocratic Oath to profit off of helpless patients, to escape justice. Perhaps there needs to be a debate on the strictness of the laws in place so that the legal route to organ transplant is easier to take. At the moment it seems desperation is the reason patients seek out people like Dr Mumtaz, not fully understanding the risks involved. That Pakistan ranks eighth globally in kidney diseases does not help matters either.