On Tuesday, the Gleneagles Global Hospital here harvested the organs from Karthik, the son of a daily wage labourer from Pudukkottai who was critically injured in a road accident and was airlifted from Tiruchy. After he was declared brain dead, following the family’s consent, his organs were donated to several recipients including Natarajan. Later on, Wednesday, the body of the deceased was shifted back to his native village where he was cremated in a hurried manner raising further suspicion.
Members of TRANSTAN claim that several guidelines were flouted to ensure that Natarajan got a liver and kidney. However, this is not an isolated case as TRANSTAN has already warned participating hospitals against such practices leading to commercialisation of organ donor programme two years ago after it found that several patients, declared brain dead, were transferred from one hospital to another and the organs were harvested.
On December 7, 2015, TRANSTAN had sent out a circular to all transplant hospitals on the rules to be strictly adhered to. A copy of this circular available with DT Next states that organ donation should be done with altruistic motives and in a generous charitable manner as a willing contribution to society. A release sent by Gleneagles Hospital stated, that all TRANSTAN guidelines had been adhered in this case, where the hospital got four organs from the donor. However, the TRANSTAN advisory states that “organs of the donor will be allocated to the first hospital where possible brain stem death identification was done” and “the second hospital will be allocated share organs only as per their turn in share/wait list.”
Commenting on the TRANSTAN advisory and the violations in this case, a senior city surgeon who has overseen several transplants said, “If the previous hospital is already a transplant hospital, the organs must go to that hospital only. The treatment that was not available in Thanjavur Medical Medical College & Hospital was available in Gleneagles? When contacted, Health Minister Dr C Vijaya Baskar said that he would look into the case. “If there are irregularities, we will take appropriate action,” he said.
‘Thumbprint’ Balaji authorised organ transplant
Dr P Balaji, Convenor of TRANSTAN gave permission for the surgery from the state’s Transplant Authority. Dr Balaji, also known as ‘Thumbprint’ Balaji, for having attested the thumb impression of former chief minister Late J Jayalalithaa in Form B, pertaining to the by elections, and is facing a case at the Madras High Court for out-of-turn promotions said that no norms were violated in the organ transplant for Natarajan.
Defending his decision, Balaji said, “It was the case of in-house donation which is legal. Already there is a debt return of one liver from Apollo to Stanley and one of Christian Medical College to Stanley. Natarajan was registered on April 14, 2017 and has been on the wait list for seven months. Subsequently, a donor came and we were informed by Gleneagles Global Hospital at 02:07 pm on Tuesday that they have a brain-dead patient and they were permitted to use the organs. Nothing has been violated. Everything was transparent.”
Who paid the charges for air ambulance?
Even as questions were being raised about how a daily-wage earner could requisition the services of an air ambulance to airlift Karthik for better treatment at a Chennai hospital, a senior official from Ganga Hospitals here, whose aircraft was pressed into service, said the request came from a ‘relative’ of Karthik, who identified himself as just Vijayan.
The official refused to give the exact billed amount and claimed not to have any more details of the person who had made the booking. As per records, the air ambulance charges are approximately Rs 1 lakh per hour.
“Karthik was brought to Tiruchy from Thanjavur by road and we airlifted him to Chennai late on Monday night,” he said. He also said the bills were unpaid, and when asked who would make the payment, he refused to comment.