Police have arrested five doctors from one of the top hospitals in India for their involvement in the human organ black market.
The scheme was first discovered in July, when police acted on a suspicious organ transplant in which a woman was supposedly donating her kidney to her husband, according to Quartz. Officials soon found out that the woman was a poor villager and was not related to the man.
Indian law dictates that only close relatives can donate kidneys. If an unrelated person wants to donate, they must receive permission from the government after an extensive investigation proves that no monetary transaction is involved. Additionally, with familial consent, organs can be sourced from brain-dead patients. Buying and selling organs is not allowed under Indian law.
But with 200,000 Indians in need of a kidney transplant each year, demand exceeds supply. Hospitals have turned to illegal measures to harvest organs and provide for those willing to pay high prices.
"In far-flung villages in West Bengal and Bihar, most of the villagers live with one kidney and operations are performed locally," said Rishi Kant from NGO Shakti Vahin, according to Quartz. "It is a thriving market, with touts preying on [the] poor."
Donors who are desperate for cash are often paid little for their organs. Quartz says a donor would be paid around $4,500 for a kidney. Doctors can then sell that kidney to a rich patient for tens of thousands of dollars.
Five doctors from Dr. L.H. Hiranandani Hospital in Mumbai, including its CEO and medical director, have been arrested and now await their bail hearing, according to The Indian Express. Police believe the doctors were either directly involved with the scheme or deliberately negligent in checking where the organs had come from.
Private hospitals are usually the drivers of the lucrative black market. In June, the BBC reported that a hospital in Kolkata was discovered to be part of a scheme that lured poor villagers into selling their organs for much less than market value. Doctors would work closely with gang members, who pressured India's most vulnerable into undergoing surgery.