States told to act on social media groups, sites trading organs

States told to act on social media groups, sites trading organs


The Union government has alerted all States and Union Territories about websites and social media groups involved in the illegal trading of human organs, urging stringent action against them.

Key Highlights:

  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare specifically identified certain websites and social media groups offering substantial amounts of money for kidneys and other organs.
  • THOTA Violation: The Directorate General of Health Services noted that these activities violate the Transplantation of Human Organ and Tissue Act (THOTA), 1994.
  • Fraudulent Offers: An example cited was an offer of ₹5 crore for a kidney, falsely advertised in the name of a popular hospital in Karnataka, highlighting the seriousness of these scams.
  • Punishments Under THOTA: Violations of THOTA are punishable with fines ranging from ₹20 lakh to ₹1 crore and imprisonment from five to ten years.
  • State Responsibility: Since health and law and order are State subjects, States have the power to appoint authorities under THOTA to handle commercial activities and organ trafficking.
  • Awareness Initiatives: Efforts are being made to educate the public about the illegality of obtaining organs through agents, including adding a chapter on organ transplants in the CBSE curriculum to raise awareness among students.
  • National Network: The National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization has been established to create a network for organ procurement, distribution, and maintaining a national registry.

Overview of Organ Transplantation Regulations in India

Governing Law and Regulations

  • India’s legal framework for organ and tissue transplantation, including posthumous organ donation, is primarily governed by the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act (THOTA).
  • This law sets forth detailed regulations for healthcare providers and hospitals, imposing severe penalties for non-compliance.

Organ Donors and Recipients

  • Organ transplants can be sourced from either deceased donors, whose organs are donated by relatives, or living donors known to the recipients.
  • The Act generally permits living donations from close relatives such as parents, siblings, children, spouses, grandparents, and grandchildren.

Donations from Distant Relatives and Foreigners

  • The Act allows altruistic donations from distant relatives, in-laws, or long-time friends, provided there is thorough scrutiny to ensure no financial transactions are involved.
  • For living donations between close relatives, whether Indian or foreign, documentation proving the relationship, such as family trees and photographs, is mandatory.
  • Both donors and recipients must undergo interviews to confirm the authenticity of the relationship.

Donations from Unrelated Persons

  • Unrelated donors are required to provide substantial documentation and photographic evidence demonstrating a long-term association or friendship with the recipient. An external committee examines these cases to prevent illegal transactions.

Penalties for Violations

  • Engaging in illegal organ trading activities—such as offering payment for organs, advertising such arrangements, or aiding in the creation of false documents—can result in imprisonment of up to 10 years and fines up to ₹1 crore.

Formation of NOTTO

  • The National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (NOTTO) operates under the Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • Established as per the Transplantation of Human Organs (Amendment) Act 2011, NOTTO serves as the apex center for coordination and networking for organ and tissue procurement and distribution across India, as well as maintaining a national registry.

Key Provisions of THOT Rules, 2014

  • Authorisation Committee:
    • Rule 7 mandates the formation of the Authorisation Committee, which conducts enquiries and evaluations to ensure the absence of commercial transactions in non-relative donor cases.
    • Rule 7(5) allows hospitals to expedite the evaluation process if a recipient is critically ill and needs a transplant within a week.
  • Living Donor Transplantations:
    • Rule 10 outlines the joint application process required for living donor transplants.
    • Rule 21 necessitates personal interviews by the Committee to verify the eligibility of the donor and recipient.
  • This comprehensive regulatory framework ensures ethical practices in organ transplantation while safeguarding the interests of donors and recipients.

Authorisation Committee

  • Purpose: Approves organ transplant procedures involving non-near relative donors to ensure ethical compliance and prevent illegal practices.
  • Composition: Established as per Section 9(4) of the 1994 Act; constituted by State Governments and Union Territories with members nominated by them.
  • Powers: Conducts thorough inquiries to verify donor-recipient authenticity and ensures no commercial motives under Section 9(5).
  • Legal Basis: Operates under the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act, 1994, with its rules prescribed by the Central Government.
  • Parliamentary Role: Section 24 allows the Centre to make rules, subject to parliamentary approval, for implementing the Act’s various provisions.