He was duped into selling his kidney, then exposed an illegal organ racket in India (2023)

Seven years after leaving his village in northern India to find work in the bursting metropolis of Mumbai, Sundar Singh Jatav was struggling in a menial job at a video game shop. The $2.50 daily wage was hardly enough with his family back home deep in debt.

So in late 2015, when his boss introduced him to a man who promised to solve his financial problems, Jatav listened — and was shocked.

“He suggested I sell my kidney,” said Jatav, now 23.

What happened over the next several months would upend his life — and reveal a high-level kidney trafficking network inside one of the most reputed hospitals in India’s financial capital.

At least 14 people, including four doctors and the hospital’s chief executive, have been arrested since July when police, acting on information provided by Jatav, stopped a kidney transplant involving a 48-year-old patient who had presented forged documents purporting that the organ donor was his wife.

The ring is part of what one news outlet dubbed the “Great Indian Kidney Racket.”

Because the country harvests relatively few organs from people who die in accidents — the most common source of kidneys in the U.S. — the vast majority of transplants here involve living donors who give up one of their two kidneys.

To reduce the chances that money is changing hands, which is illegal in India and almost everywhere else, the law allows, with rare exceptions, only a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent or grandchild to act as a donor.

He was duped into selling his kidney, then exposed an illegal organ racket in India (1)

For patients who don’t have a relative with a suitable kidney or don’t want to put a loved one through the small risk that donation entails, there is another option: a shadowy marketplace in which well-off patients can buy organs from strangers. The sellers are often impoverished, recruited from small towns by middlemen and made to present falsified papers — sometimes in collusion with doctors.

“This is part of our VIP culture,” said Dr. Sanjay Nagral, a surgeon and publisher of the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics. “It comes from our larger understanding and our acceptance that if you have money in India, you can buy so many things, so what is so different about buying organs?”

No one knows how many of the roughly 8,000 kidney transplants performed in India last year were illegal, but organ scams periodically surface. A month before the Mumbai arrests, a leading hospital in New Delhi was found to have performed at least three kidney transplants based on sham documents.

The case that Jatav exposed involved L.H. Hiranandani Hospital, a private facility in Powai, a prosperous suburb of wide boulevards and expansive apartments. Authorities are investigating at least four transplants at the hospital and have ordered it to temporarily stop carrying out the surgeries.

“Obviously, this case is just an indicator of what’s going on beneath the surface,” Nagral said. “We don’t know the extent of it, but it’s very difficult for these kidney sales to be completely stopped.”

The trade exists in part because of the large pool of Indians desperate enough to give up a vital organ. Just as surrogacy grew into a booming industry over the last decade, with thousands of childless Indian and foreign couples hiring Indian women to carry their babies, laborers surviving on a few dollars a day are ripe targets for agents who offer thousands for a kidney.

Jatav, the youngest of four siblings from Uttar Pradesh, is a prime example.

Slender and shy, with barely a fourth-grade education, Jatav had been forced to become the breadwinner: His parents were weakened from old age, his sister had died from an illness, and his two brothers were unable to work because of mental disabilities.

The family was more than $10,000 in debt, and Jatav was the only hope.

In an interview in a cramped Mumbai cafe, he described his role. At first, he declined to sell a kidney. But then the agent, Iqbal Siddiqui, put him in touch with a friendly, sweet-talking man who called himself Sandeep.

Sandeep arranged for him to visit Hiranandani, a sprawling medical complex overlooking a lake. There, the small-town young man sat in a room with three doctors who told him that donating a kidney was no different than giving blood, he recalled.

“I trusted them,” Jatav said. “I thought they were good people wanting to help me with my financial condition.”

Sandeep did not offer Jatav a specific price for his kidney, saying only that it would be enough to pay off his family’s debt and promising to help him get a better job. To sweeten the deal, Sandeep moved Jatav, who had been sleeping on a mattress in a corner of the video game store, into a small apartment rent-free.

Jatav never saw the donor forms that were submitted on his behalf, which claimed he and the recipient — later revealed to be a 30-year-old woman from New Delhi — were siblings from suburban Mumbai. He was admitted to the hospital March 15 after undergoing blood tests.

Two days later, his kidney was removed. Within a week, he was discharged.

But he had not been paid, and Sandeep was dodging his calls. When they finally spoke, Sandeep was evasive about the money but offered to bring Jatav on as a sort of assistant, tasking him with carrying bags and files.

Jatav can barely read English. But he observed Sandeep meeting with other donors and realized that their documents also were being forged to show a blood relationship with a kidney patient.

Through a friend, Jatav contacted Suresh Gupta, an activist with the Indian National Congress political party, and slipped him two pages of a transplant application. On July 12, two days before Brijkishore Jaiswal, a 48-year-old sari merchant, was to undergo surgery, Jatav called Gupta, who tipped off police.

Jaiswal and the seller, a 42-year-old housekeeper, were arrested just before the operation was to start.

The three doctors who allegedly persuaded Jatav to give up a kidney were arrested and freed on bail. A preliminary inquiry conducted by state health officials and leaked to Indian news media suggests they were complicit in the scam, although a lawyer for the doctors called the allegations “nonsense.”

Police also arrested the hospital’s transplant coordinator, who allegedly arranged phony documents, as well as Siddiqui and Sandeep, whose real name is Bhijendra Bisen.

Bisen, 42, is one of Mumbai’s most notorious organ traffickers. He was jailed a decade ago for a similar scam and has confessed to involvement in more than 30 kidney transplants over the last four years, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported.

Jaiswal had paid him more than $30,000 for the transplant, his lawyer, Shabnam Khadri, said in an interview. The hospital said it received $7,000. The seller was promised about $3,000. When police raided the transplant coordinator’s home, they reportedly found $12,000 in cash. It was unclear how the rest was to be distributed.

Gupta, the activist, said agents like Bisen exploit ignorance and vulnerability.

“They basically use the poor man as a sacrificial lamb to prolong the life of the rich,” he said.

India was once a top destination for transplant tourists — patients from the United States and other wealthy countries who traveled here to receive kidneys because of shortages in their countries. Facing criticism that the system exploited the poor and that the procedures were secretive and often unsafe, India passed a law in 1994 that banned organ sales and allowed only close relatives to serve as donors.

Researchers believe that 220,000 Indians need kidneys, but the nonprofit Indian Transplant Registry estimates that only 8,000 people got one last year.

One reason is that most transplants are performed in private hospitals at a cost of $10,000 or more, and few people have health insurance or the money to pay for it.

Those who can afford a transplant face another obstacle: The lack of a national system to collect organs from cadavers — such as the more than 100,000 Indians who die each year in car accidents — means that kidneys are in short supply.

Only about 15% of India’s transplanted kidneys come from deceased donors, although that figure has been rising steadily. Some eligible living donors are simply afraid to part with an organ, even for a relative, doctors say.

That has helped give rise to the black market for living donors posing as relatives.

“It’s a supply-and-demand problem,” said Sunil Shroff, a urologist who runs the transplant registry. “Families are sometimes pushed against the wall when they’re not able to find a solution. In desperation, they can do all kinds of stupid things.”

It is unclear why Jatav was never paid. Had he been, it is likely the kidney ring would have remained hidden.

After going public, he said, he received threatening phone calls that prompted him to take his wife back to his village for her safety. Although he agreed to have his story told in an American newspaper, he has not revealed his role in the case to her or other family members.

He remains in Mumbai, where he has asked for police protection and is looking for a job, having quit the video store before the operation. A friend is paying his rent.

He lifted up his white button-down shirt to reveal a foot-long scar across the right side of his torso. His appetite has diminished, he has bouts of dizziness, and he cannot walk for more than a few minutes without fatigue — symptoms he blames on the kidney procedure, even though such complications are rare. He does not have money to see a doctor.

“I was the only son who my parents thought could make some money for them,” he said. “With my health, what options do I have now?”

But he is not the only one in this story to suffer.

Before his transplant was foiled, Jaiswal had been surviving on twice-weekly dialysis treatments and was usually nauseated and weak. He turned to the black market for a kidney, his lawyer said, because no one in his family was willing to donate.

After his arrest, he was granted bail because of his declining health and returned home to the neighboring state of Gujarat. He continued to get sicker and on Aug. 31, six weeks after Jatav blew the whistle, died of kidney failure.

Family members took his body to be cremated along the Ganges River in Varanasi, the holiest city in Hinduism, where all one’s sins are believed to be absolved upon death.

Parth M.N. is a special correspondent.



He was duped into selling his kidney, then exposed an illegal organ racket in India? ›

Duped into selling his kidney, this 23-year-old exposed an illegal organ racket in India. Sundar Singh Jatav, 23, sold his kidney to cover his family's debts. He found out too late that it was a scam.

Is selling own kidney illegal in India? ›

India set the THOA Act in 1994, which aspired to make the donation and transplantation of organs convenient. The direct object of the THOA is to ban retail sales of organs by holding the disposal, holding, and transplantation of the organs for restoring needs.

Is selling human organs illegal in India? ›

If it is found that the money has been exchanged in the process then both the recipient as well as the donor are considered as prime offenders under the law. According to the Indian law, organ sales are banned and therefore no foreigner can get a local donor.

What is the punishment for illegal organ transplant in India? ›

[(3) Any person who renders his services to or at any hospital and who conducts, or associates with or helps in any manner in the removal of human tissue without authority, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees.]

How much is an illegal kidney worth? ›

Organ prices

On the black market, the same kidney can be worth over $160,000, with most of proceeds taken up by middlemen. The typical price paid to donors on the black market is thought to be about US$5,000, but some donors receive as little as $1,000.

How much can kidney be sold for? ›

Most people get $1,000 to $10,000 for their kidney (probably much less than you were hoping for).

Is kidney donation legal in India? ›

Transplantation of Human Organs Act (THOA) 1994 was enacted to provide a system of removal, storage and transplantation of human organs for therapeutic purposes and for the prevention of commercial dealings in human organs. THOA is now adopted by all States except Andhra and J&K, who have their own similar laws.

Can human organs be sold legally? ›

No, you can't legally buy (or sell) an organ. But you and your loved ones do have options for getting the medical attention you need. If you have legal concerns about procuring or donating an organ, or other health care law questions, you should speak with an experienced health care attorney near you.

Who Cannot donate organs in India? ›

In the case of a living donation, a person may wish to donate one kidney or a part of their liver to someone who is suffering from organ failure. In India, the law restricts these donations to 'near relatives' of the donor (grandparents, parents, children, siblings, spouse, and grandchildren above 18 years of age.

Can a brain dead person donate organs in India? ›

The brain death can be caused due to major accident which causes severe brain injury, a major stroke or certain brain tumors. Brain Dead people can donate their organs.

Can Muslims have pig organ transplants? ›

The same legal maxim may be used with human–pig organs since organs blended with human and pig tissue are also forbidden in Islam. However, this treatment can benefit humans.

How much is a kidney worth in US dollars? ›

According to the widely used, although somewhat hard-to-find-credit-for figures, a heart is worth around $1 million in the US. Livers come in second, worth about $557,000 and kidneys cost about $262,000 each.

Which country has the most organ trafficking? ›

Numerous pieces of evidence suggest that people were murdered on this scale in order to sell and transplant their organs – indeed, with the involvement and support of government agencies. Thus, the most cases of organ harvesting in the world by far take place in China.

Can you live with 1 kidney? ›

Most people with one kidney live healthy, normal lives with few problems. In other words, one healthy kidney can work as well as two.

Can I sold my left kidney? ›

Perhaps not too surprisingly, selling a kidney is illegal. Covered under Section 32 of the Human Tissue Act, anyone participating in 'commercial dealings' involving organs is breaking the law. Punishment varies but those in violation could face up to three years in prison as well as a fine.

Can you live without a kidney? ›

One kidney is enough to filter your blood to keep it clean and healthy. If you have one kidney removed, as long as your other one works normally there should be no ill effects. Your GP should monitor your blood pressure regularly (about 4 times a year). This is to make sure that the remaining kidney stays healthy.

What is the cost of kidney transplant in India? ›

The average cost of a kidney transplant ranges between 7 – 10 lakhs. This includes pre-transplant evaluation, the surgery itself and post-transplant recovery period. The costs generally depend on: Organ Recovery and Transport Charges.

Can a US citizen get Kidney Transplant in India? ›

The Health Ministry has made it mandatory for foreign nationals seeking organ transplant in India to be registered in the waiting list of hospitals following reports claiming they were being given preferential treatment by some private institutions.

Can a foreigner get a Kidney Transplant in India? ›

Foreign nationals (donor and recipient) can be transplanted in India after getting permission from the respective country embassy or government and authorisation committee. Foreign nationals cannot receive a donation from an Indian national unless they are near relatives. Donation from minors is usually not permitted.

Is Kidney Transplant free in India? ›

The tentative kidney transplant cost in India is around 5 to 6 lakh in private hospitals. Post-surgery medicines that have to be taken lifelong cost approximately INR 10,000. Post-surgery follow-ups cost around INR 15,000.

Do kidney donors get money? ›

Do I get paid to donate a kidney? No. Getting paid to donate a kidney is illegal in the United States and most other countries. Most living donors decide to donate because they want to help a family member or friend or because they simply want to do good.

How much can human organs sell for? ›

In theory, if you could harvest every organ and chemical in your body, you could make a cool $45M! But in reality, Medical Transcription estimates, the average price of a human dead body is more likely to fetch around $550,000 (with a few key body parts driving up the price). So how does that all break down?

How much is a kidney transplant? ›

Kidney Transplantation Costs

In 2020, the average kidney transplant cost was US$442,500 (6). Charges for the transplant admission, which include the surgery itself, are the most expensive line item, accounting for 34% of the total cost.

Which religion Cannot donate organs? ›

Jehovah's Witnesses – According to the Watch Tower Society, the legal corporation for the religion, Jehovah's Witnesses do not encourage organ donation but believe it is a matter best left to an individual's conscience. All organs and tissues, however, must be completely drained of blood before transplantation.

Can Muslims accept organ donations? ›

Thus many Muslims understand from this verse that donating one's organs is a blessed act. In 1995, the Muslim Law (Sharia) Council UK issued a fatwa, religious edict, saying organ donation is permitted.

Why is organ donation so low in India? ›

Lack of training to doctors, misgivings among people and lack of trust in the system have triggered a major organ crisis in most of the hospitals in India. As a result, the organ donation ratio in India is estimated to be a meagre 0.6 per million population in India.

Which organ Cannot be donated after death? ›

Not all organs and tissue types are suitable for transplant. Organs that can be transplanted are the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and intestines. The skin, bone tissue (including tendons and cartilage), eye tissue, heart valves and blood vessels are transplantable forms of tissue.

How long do organs last after brain death? ›

Brain death is permanent and irreversible. It is a legal definition of death. However, the vital organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, pancreas and kidneys can be kept viable for a few days if supported by artificial or mechanical support.

What happens to a brain dead organ donor? ›

If a vented patient is brain dead, LifeSource will arrive at the hospital, clinically manage the patient and further evaluate specific organs. LifeSource will match donated organs to transplant physicians on behalf of their waiting patients, per UNOS policy.

Is there halal insulin? ›

Recombinant DNA insulin is halal.

Do religions allow organ transplants? ›

While there are variations in specific views, it is clear that most major religions of the world do in fact permit, allow and support transplantation and donation. Donation is viewed as an act of neighborly love and charity by these denominations.

Is it haram to get a heart transplant from a pig? ›

News of a successful organ transplant transferring a pig's heart into a human is a fine example of the advances made in medicine and science.

How much is left kidney in USA? ›

Most people get $1,000 to $10,000 for their kidney (probably much less than you were hoping for).

How much does a liver transplant cost in the US? ›

The average liver transplant is around $600,000 or more, including follow-up care and medications after the procedure.

What are some of the organs in the human body are most valuable? ›

The organs which cannot be donated during life time are valuable organs, examples are liver, heart, eyes. These organs can be donated after death only. The embryonic stem cells are very valuable because these are special types of cells present in the body of multicellular organisms.

Where is human trafficking the worst in us? ›

In the United States, human trafficking tends to occur around international travel hubs with large immigrant populations, notably in California, Texas, and Georgia. Those trafficked include young children, teenagers, men, and women; victims can be domestic citizens or foreign nationals.

What countries have the worst human trafficking? ›

The 10 Worst Countries for Human Trafficking
  • China. ...
  • Eritrea. ...
  • Iran. ...
  • North Korea. ...
  • Russia. ...
  • Sudan. ...
  • Syria. ...
  • Venezuela. Among those trafficked out of Venezuela, 55 percent are adults, 26 percent are young girls and 19 percent are young boys.

Where is human trafficking worse in the US? ›

Human Trafficking Statistics in the United States
#StateHuman Trafficking Incidents
4New York414
46 more rows

Can you drink alcohol with 1 kidney? ›

The Effects of Alcohol on One Kidney

So, if you have one kidney and drink alcohol, you can cause life-threatening issues. A healthy lifestyle includes a nutritious diet, exercise, and regular check-ups. This means no alcohol. This risk of kidney disease from alcohol is drastically increased with only one kidney.

What color is urine when your kidneys are failing? ›

When your kidneys are failing, a high concentration and accumulation of substances lead to brown, red, or purple urine. Studies suggest the urine color is due to abnormal protein or sugar as well as high numbers of cellular casts and red and white blood cells.

What can you eat with one kidney? ›

If you have a solitary kidney, you do not need to eat a special diet. However, you can keep your kidneys healthy by staying well hydrated, not taking too much salt, and not gaining excessive weight. If you have reduced kidney function, you may need to make changes to your diet to slow your kidney disease progression.

Where can I donate my kidney in Mumbai? ›

NGOS For Organ Donation in Mumbai
  • Mahila Ekta Sangh. 4.3. 38 Ratings. ...
  • Sai Laxmi Charitable Trust (Reg) Mira Road. 4.9. 52 Ratings. ...
  • Soham Foundation. 4.5. 51 Ratings. ...
  • Ever Willing Foundation. 4.9. 50 Ratings. ...
  • Udaan INDIA Foundation. 4.4. ...
  • A. Mansoori Manav Vikas Foundation. ...
  • Ek Ehsaas Ek Vishwas Foundation. 4.1. ...
  • MOHAN Foundation. 4.4.

Can a US citizen get kidney transplant in India? ›

The Health Ministry has made it mandatory for foreign nationals seeking organ transplant in India to be registered in the waiting list of hospitals following reports claiming they were being given preferential treatment by some private institutions.

How much does a kidney transplant cost in USA? ›

Kidney Transplantation Costs

In 2020, the average kidney transplant cost was US$442,500 (6).

Can I get free Kidney Transplant in India? ›

Only below poverty line (BPL) patients are eligible under the free organ transplantation scheme — heart, liver, and kidney — in government and private-empaneled hospitals in Karnataka.

Who Cannot donate a kidney? ›

There are some medical conditions that could prevent you from being a living donor. These include having uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, HIV, hepatitis, or acute infections. Having a serious mental health condition that requires treatment may also prevent you from being a donor.

How much does it cost to get a kidney in Mumbai? ›

Kidney Transplant cost depends upon multiple factors : Starting price is ₹ 250,000. Average cost is ₹ 390,000.


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