Bihar: Dalit Woman's Desperate Wait for Kidney Transplant Exposes Health System Failures

Sunita’s kidneys were allegedly removed in early September 2022 at the private nursing home in the guise of a uterine removal procedure. The patient’s family holds the state health officials responsible for their inability to find a donor for the impoverished woman who is fighting for her life at SKMCH in Muzaffarpur.
Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), Muzaffarpur.
Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), Muzaffarpur.

Patna: Poor Sunita Devi, a dalit woman, has been fighting for her life since her kidneys were purportedly removed at a private nursing home in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district approximately 17 months ago. The health officials in the state have failed to find a donor for her. Her family claims that she is in poor health.

The poor woman has lost all hope of receiving the much-needed kidney transplant because of the alleged incompetence of health professionals, who have continued to reiterate their previous response of attempting to find a donor since September 2022.

Sunita, who is in her mid-30s, needs the transplant immediately to survive, but the medical authorities are unable to help her. Her situation has been worse since last week. She is presently admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) at the government-run Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) in the district.

“My daughter needs to be saved, but we don’t have the money to arrange a donor. If the government’s health department was sincere, they could have done it long ago,” Sunita’s mother Tetri Devi told The Mooknayak.

“It seems,” she alleged, “the government has no concern for the life of poor people”.

The transplant procedure was delayed last year, and Sunita’s family members said it happened because of the health department’s “non-seriousness”. 

They claimed that no serious attempt was made by the medical authorities to get her a kidney transplant. They said one year is a long time to arrange a donation, if the department was sincere.

Narrating her ordeal, Tetri Devi stated Sunita’s survival also matters for her three minor children, who are losing hope with each passing day.

Sunita’s kidneys were allegedly removed in early September 2022 at the private nursing home in the guise of a uterine removal procedure. The health department’s senior brass had promised to provide her with the necessary care, including a kidney transplant. 

However, she has been waiting impatiently for it for about a year-and-a-half.

The woman’s condition is not well, according to Dr Abha Rani Sinha, the SKMCH superintendent (additional in-charge). After her dialysis was completed, her doctors determined that her low hemoglobin level required a blood transfusion.

“As of now, no donor has stepped forward. Sunita urgently needs a kidney transplant. We attempted to arrange a donor but were unsuccessful,” the doctor told The Mooknayak.

SKMCH Deputy Medical Superintendent Dr Satish Kumar said the patient is under the supervision of a team of doctors since she complained of dyspnea following a possible chest infection.

“The SKMCH has written to the higher health authorities several times to arrange a donor,” he said.

A top official at the SKMCH, on strict condition of anonymity, said finding a donor is “not their job”, but the government. 

“Providing proper medical care, especially regular dialysis, is our top priority. We have been paying the patient extra attention, keeping an eye on her health. We urge higher officials of the state’s health department to make arrangements for her transplant,” he said.

The Mooknayak repeatedly tried to get in touch with the Bihar health secretary, but he was out of reach.

Sunita’s family claimed she was repeatedly admitted to the SKMCH as and when her health deteriorated. Since there is no prospect of a likely donor, they said, she has returned home.

An investigation undertaken by the Muzaffarpur police into the incident of the alleged illegal kidney removal at the private nursing home — Subhakant Clinic —  revealed it lacked basic facilities and did not have an operating theater. 

It was claimed that the nursing home in rural Muzaffarpur has been performing surgeries without an approval from the government — a breach of basic medical ethics.

The authorities said the clinic does not have even a registration number and has no details of the degrees of the doctors serving there. The clinic, according to the locals, is administered by self-described doctors.

Sunita was taken there in early September after she complained of stomach pain. The ‘doctors’ there examined her, performed an ultrasound and then requested that the family make an immediate financial deposit so that she could be admitted for uterine removal surgery. 

Hours after the surgery, she began to feel weakness and unease and her body swelled. Sensing troubles in the wake of her deteriorating health, the doctors there referred her to Patna for specialised treatment.

Upon examination, Sunita’s family was informed by the doctors at the government-run Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) that both of her kidneys were removed.

She was thereafter admitted to Muzaffarpur’s SKMCH, where medical professionals performed additional testing and further determined that she had had both of her kidneys removed. 

She was then admitted to Patna-based Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS), which sent her back to the SKMCH — where she has been undergoing dialysis since then.

Based on Sunita’s mother’s statement, the police filed a case at Bariyarpur police station against the clinic’s doctors — including its owner Pawan Kumar under the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act, 1994, as well as the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

A Special Investigative Team was formed in order to apprehend the clinic’s fugitive proprietors, who also happen to be its self-declared doctors.

The police detained Pawan Kumar in November 2022 who is the prime accused in the case.

Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), Muzaffarpur.
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