It’s a strange situation that Nahid Akhtar finds herself in. Having come to Mumbai from Gorakhpur, she is waiting for approvals from Maharashtra’s state authorisation committee, so that her husband can donate his kidney to her, even when he is willing to be the donor.
Nahid Akhtar (27) and her husband Shakeel Ahmed (30) hail from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh and were married in June 2010. A month later, Nahid fell ill and underwent treatment for fever and fluid accumulation in her body. Local doctors conducted tests and found that her kidneys were not functioning properly.
Nahid said, “The doctors suggested a kidney transplant when medicines failed to curtail the damage to both of my kidneys. I discussed the matter with my mother and nine siblings, but none of them came forward to donate their kidney, as they feared that donating one kidney would kill them. Even my mother refused.”
When no help came forth, the couple came to Mumbai. Little did they realise that they would be made to run from pillar to post. They went to Nanavati Hospital for the transplant and Shakeel agreed to donate one of his kidneys.
But instead of taking the process ahead, the hospital referred the case to the State Authorisation Committee. The committee has asked them for a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from a police station in the area where the couple hail from, and an affidavit of consent from the relatives of the willing husband, approving the donation. The in-laws, however, have refused to permit the operation.
“It was my husband who stood beside me and agreed to donate his kidney. But my in-laws suggested that he get married to another woman. I could fight my illness only because of my husband,” said an emotional Nahid, who has to undergo dialysis thrice a week.
Her husband Shakeel runs a fabrication business in Gorakhpur. When asked about the suggestion to marry again, he clarified, “Even Nahid initially supported the idea, but I was sure that there would be nobody to take care of her after me. We saw the true colours of our near and dear ones in the time of need. Hence, I have decided to do everything possible to save her and have come to Mumbai.” Nahid’s brother, who works in Saudi Arabia, is financing her treatment.
The couple is worried; they have been waiting for over four months to get an approval from the state authorisation committee. During this time, Nahid has contracted tuberculosis due to the dialysis.
“We hail from a small village and do not have required manpower and money to keep visiting Mumbai every time. We are hopeful that the treating doctors will do the needful to allow me to donate my kidney and save my wife’s life,” Shakeel added.
Dr Bharat Shah, director, Institute of Renal Sciences, Global Hospital, said this was nothing but a case of harassment, as it was merely delaying the entire transplant process, leaving no option for the couple than to approach the court.
Shah added, “The Transplantation of Human Organs Act (THOA-amended) clearly states that patients who are related and do not belong from Maharashtra, do not require an NOC from the police or from the State Authorisation Committee of their respective state of origins.” Moreover, Shah says that if the husband is willing to donate his kidney to his wife, a consent affidavit from other family members should not be required.
Interestingly, it was only after the division bench of Bombay High Court passed an order acting on the public interest litigation filed by Dr Shah, that the government agreed to make necessary amendments to clause 15 of the checklist, so as to not insist for a permission from the authorisation committee. Instead, they are now asking for an NOC from the local police station.
The other side
Dr Praveen Shingare, from the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER), said, “A husband donor comes under the definition of a ‘near relative’ as per the THO Act, so the question of taking permission of the state authorisation committee does not arise. The committee of the hospital where the patient is getting operated can take a decision and the patient can be operated upon. But instead, if the hospital committee refers the said case to the state committee for approval, it becomes a case of an unrelated donor, and we have to follow all procedures.” Dr Shingare added, “If the husband’s relatives are not giving their consent, an affidavit from a close friend can be obtained. But the police NOC has to be given, as the couple hails from outside Maharashtra.” Explaining the reason for insisting on the NOC, Dr Shingare said that the step was taken to confirm if the two were actually a married couple or not. This is because in the past, there have been several cases where unrelated people posed as husband and wife and a transplant operation was performed. After the surgery, it was found that they were not related and the donor had agreed to the surgery in exchange for money for donating his organ, and that he/she had not been paid the promised sum. And because surgeons and hospital committee members from reputed hospitals have been arrested by the police in the past, the hospital committee did not want to take any risk in this case, he elaborated.