The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has busted an illegal organ transplant ring on Saturday in Lahore, lodging its first-ever case under the Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA) against two doctors, two foreigners and two organ donors. The raids and arrests continued through the week as two more foreigners were arrested from a Gulberg hotel, and another illegal “clinic” was targeted in the posh EME society on the outskirts of Lahore.
The FIA must be commended for its action in making prompt arrests, several of whom were made when the operations were under process so the case against the culprits could be stronger. What is troubling in the whole episode is the doctors arrested in connection to the criminal ring were respected and affluent individuals working in prominent public hospitals and holding high positions in doctor’s associations. The illegal organ trade is only the province of doctors on the fringes of the medical profession, but involves individuals at the heart of it. The FIA must work towards uncovering the other abettors of this illegal ring – those who set up the deals with foreign receivers, those who entrapped the poor donors, and those who allowed their premises to be used for such purposes.
This includes conviction of the foreigners who came to Pakistan seeking illegal organs; only when these individuals are given hefty sentences the influx of these ‘medical tourists’ will decline, cutting of the impetus for this trade.
While new figures are unclear, before Pakistan tightened laws and enforcement in 2010, the country was one of the top destinations for individuals seeking illegal organ transplants. While that number has gone down in recent years, there still exists several gangs carrying out such activities – as the busting of another ring in Rawalpindi earlier this year demonstrated.