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Health News

Doctor struck off for offering live kidney transplant

A GP who offered to arrange a kidney transplant from a live donor was struck off the medical register yesterday after being found guilty of serious professional misconduct.

Dr Bhagat Singh Makkar, 62, was described by the General Medical Council as "reprehensible" for ignoring the potential consequences for the donor who, the doctor told an undercover journalist, would probably be a desperately poor person from India.

At the end of a three-day hearing in London, the GMC's professional conduct committee, considered reprimanding or suspending Dr Makkar but decided his actions were so serious it had no choice other than to remove him from the register to protect the public.

The committee chairman, Professor Peter Richards, told the doctor, who used to practise in Lewisham, south-east London: "It is tragic that at the end of a long and honourable career in medical practice ... you became involved with the matters of this charge. The committee carefully considered whether this being a single offence relating to a single organ it would be sufficient to conclude the case with a reprimand. In the light of the seriousness of your misconduct they decided a reprimand would be insufficient.

"Suspension was also considered but the committee determined that in the public interest and the protection of possible donors that your name be struck off the general medical register ... Your offence has been a single event and no transaction had been concluded. Nevertheless, it was apparent from the assured way you conducted the consultation that you were aware of the significance and implications."

Dr Makkar was exposed last March by a freelance journalist, Paul Samrai, who posed as a patient whose father needed a kidney transplant. The doctor said there would be "no problem" in acquiring a kidney from a live donor. During a 20-minute consultation, which the journalist taped, Dr Makkar said an operation could be conducted in India, Germany or in the UK. A donor could be found in the UK, he said but that would be much more difficult than finding one in the slums of Bombay.

"You pay here," he added. "The only thing you pay over there if any complications happen. So your bill will be, hospital, hotel, my administration costs. All donor, everything will be sorted out here."

Dr Makkar said that after his retirement, which came two days after the taped conversation, he planned to devote more time to his company, Health International Service Ltd, which would deal in transplants and other private surgery.

"I can get it done in Bombay, Breach Candy Hospital, one of the best hospitals in India," he boasted. "That's where the Indian Prime Minister was treated recently ... We are starting to send patients from here to India." The doctor assured his potential patient there are "plenty of poor people" in South India willing to donate organs.

Charles Foster, counsel for Dr Makkar, had told the committee his client had been a victim of entrapment. "With the complete absence of any evidence about previous misdealings about Dr Makkar it would indicate that this was an isolated incident of stupidity," he said.

Dr Makkar, who said he was "ashamed" at his stupidity, stood with his hands by his side and his head bowed as the decision was announced.

There are more than 5,000 patients waiting for kidney transplants in Britain - operations are heavily regulated by authorities. The sale of organs was banned in 1989.