The Supreme Court on Wednesday came to the rescue of a 3-year-old US citizen in critical need of a liver donor and directed the authorisation committee constituted under the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act (THOTA), 1994, to urgently process his parents’ request to receive a donation from his father’s distant cousin.
A bench of justices AS Bopanna and PS Narasimha directed the child’s family to move an application before the committee and directed the latter to process it with the necessary documents on the same day. The court posted the matter for hearing on Tuesday.
The top court’s order came even as the rules permit that a foreign citizen can only receive an organ in India from a near relative — including parents, siblings, grandparents, spouse, or grandchildren. When the parents first contacted the committee before approaching the court, it was orally communicated that the transplantation could not go through. The committee cited Section 9 of the Act, which states, “The committee shall not approve… if the recipient is a foreign national and the donor is an Indian national unless they are near relatives.”
The child is currently admitted to the paedeatric intensive care unit of a Gurugram-based private hospital with liver failure and is reported to be in a critical stage. The examining doctors recommended a liver transplant be undertaken at the earliest.
On Thursday, additional solicitor general (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati appearing for the committee told the court that the matter has proceeded in the right earnest and the cousin of the child’s father, a resident of Gurudaspur in Punjab, was found medically eligible to donate the liver. However, some documents remain to be furnished before the final decision can be taken.
Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan appearing for the petitioner informed the court that the case presented a precarious situation where the mother is undergoing pregnancy treatment while the father’s blood group does not match with the child. The couple along with their minor son live in the US and arrived in India in February this year. The couple obtained Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) status in 2022.
The child was admitted to the hospital on October 24 for treatment of decompensated biliary cirrhosis, a condition resultant of liver failure, which can only be cured through transplantation.
The petition before the Supreme Court filed by the minor recipient and the Indian donor told the court that this restriction does not apply in the present case of an OCI. Even as the legal issue is yet to be determined, considering the urgency of saving the child, the petitioner’s lawyer Swati Vaibhav moved the top court on October 30 seeking urgent listing.
The matter was placed for consideration by the Chief Justice of India who directed the matter to be listed before the present bench on Wednesday.