You are better dead than alive. When the total value of a life is less than a part of it, selling that part definitely reaps more dividend than a life that has become so miserable that the prospect of death seems a fatal attraction.
With most businesses suffering from a decline, the trade of body spare parts is booming with more and more people willing to barter a body organ for money they would probably spend a lifetime earning. The discovery of a private residential area in Lahore being run by private doctors carrying out illegal and dangerous surgeries to remove organs and resell them at phenomenal prices is a shocking revelation of both the desperation of the ignorant poor to cut themselves into saleable pieces to save themselves and the greed of the educated doctors to slice up human bodies with reckless abandon in order to make quick and big bucks.
The awareness of this trade being carried out in many parts of the country has always been there and the government has made laws in 2007 with the enforcement authority of HOTA (Human Organisation Transplantation Authority) that strictly forbids such acts. However, as is the tradition in this country laws made and implemented are two different stories. The negligence of this area has led to Pakistan becoming the international hub for drug trafficking and having this dubious distinction of becoming the destination “transplant tourism”. It is amazing how crime attracts crime. For a country struggling to attract foreigners, people who want to have a safe haven of buying illegal body spare parts flock in despite the obvious dangers in the country and the even more telling risks to their own bodies.
The flourishing of this evil is evident by the 2007 figures where some 2500 kidney transplants were performed and 80 per cent of them on foreign patients. This included patients from Europe, India and the Middle East who would contact these illegal practitioners through word of mouth contacts or some illicit advertising and then make trips to the country to get healthy organs as substitutes for their own defective body parts.
Why is there such a steep rise in this trade? Market forces, as they say. Where ever demand is more than supply the price premium is inevitable. Similarly for doctors and dealers in this trade, the buying and selling price spread is too tempting to ignore. The average sale price of a kidney for example is anywhere between $10000 – $30000 while the pay off to a poor and illiterate donor ranges between $ 1000 and $2000.
This is a great win-win formula for both parties. For the doctors and their support staff a profit of such high multiples can only be made after may be five to 10 years of practice and for the poor donor the same time may be required to accumulate the amount he receives by selling a redundant part of his body. It is this economic equation that has been responsible for bringing more and more people to this industry and create an almost unstoppable spree of growth in this area.
Every industry needs an enabling environment to grow. Aside from the market forces mentioned before, a government supportive of illegal activities, law enforcement agencies supporting non adherence to laws and a society fast losing its ability to distinguish between right and wrong, are the facilitating factors that have led to this mushrooming of illegal donor transplant centers especially in South Punjab areas like Sargodha. From a government, that has failed to provide life security, food security and energy security due to its own malicious intent and incompetence leading to a hemorrhaging of billions of dollars from the economy, it is ridiculous to expect concern for such a petty amount involved in this trade.
The maximum they will do is to condemn it, ask for an investigation or if still not satisfied constitute a commission for its inquiry. With such lack of governance, accountability of the law enforcing organisations becomes a joke to be highlighted only in political comedy shows on TV.
The burning question in such circumstances is: what is the role of the individual in a society nurturing such a corrosive environment? The answer is pivotal and critical. Such societies have to take it upon themselves to ensure that the extent of value deterioration does not reach a level where the masses just become indifferent to all except what affects them. Unfortunately, that is what is happening to our society. With so much going against hope people have become insensitive to their own inner voice. They see the going norm and accept it as the done thing without questioning the validity of it. The medical profession, perhaps the noblest of all in restoring life to many, is being defamed by some members who now think that messing up a few bodies here and there is insignificant compared to the unabated mass killings going on in the country. Yet the hope is that it always takes just one individual to initiate change, and thus, each one of us, despite what is around us, must talk, protest, write against such evils to contribute to the gradual and cumulative process of reformation.
The writer is a consultant and CEO of FranklinCovey Pakistan and can be reached at [email protected]