Girl's organs vanish after vacation death; family believes they may have been sold
Parents of an eight-year-old girl want an investigation after she died in a clinic in India and had her organs removed without them knowing. ITV's Mark Gough reports.
A girl who died while vacationing in India was missing her internal organs when she returned to Britain, according to her parents who fear she may have been the victim of the illegal trade in human body parts.
Gurkiren Kaur, 8, died moments after a doctor treating her for dehydration in India's Punjab region gave her an injection, according to her family.
When her body was returned to the U.K., it was found to be missing all of her internal organs. The organs have still not been located. Her grief-stricken family believes they may have been removed for sale.
Gurkiren Kaur, 8
A member of parliament in the girl's home city of Birmingham, England, has demanded an international investigation into the case. Shabana Mahmood, a lawmaker with the opposition Labour Party, told ITV News she had raised the "deeply suspicious circumstances" of the case with British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
The Birmingham Mail newspaper, which first reported the story, said the commercial trade of human organs remained big business in India, despite having been banned in 1994.
A local politician, who is also a friend of the family, said there were "many unanswered questions" about Gurkiren's death and suggested it was "very possible" the girl was deliberately killed for her organs.
"It does happen in India, and since this case was first reported we have been contacted by other families who say their relatives have died and had organs removed without an explanation," Birmingham City Councillor Narinder Kooner said.
Gurkiren was visiting India on her first overseas vacation when she became ill on April 2 with a mild case of dehydration, according to her family. After being given an injection at a clinic, her eyes rolled to the back of her head and she quickly became unresponsive.
Her mother, Amrit, and father, Santokh, took her to a nearby hospital where she was declared dead. Doctors promised to perform only a biopsy in order to record a cause of death, in accordance with Indian requirements.
However, a British coroner called Gurkiren's parents to say her body had arrived back in the U.K. without any of the organs necessary to investigate her cause of death. It is common practice in Britain for an autopsy to be carried out in U.K. on citizens who die overseas.
Gurkiren's parents allege the clinic claims to have lost medical records relating to the case, and that attempts to investigate it have been frustrated by Indian authorities.
They say the clinic's doctor refused to tell them what had been in the injection.
Her mother Amrit, who is a postal worker, told ITV News: "I said, ‘What is the injection for? She doesn't need an injection she just needs a saline drip for half an hour or 45 minutes.' He didn't answer me at all he just gave me a blank look and totally ignored me and just inserted the needle into a syringe and as soon as he pushed it in her neck flipped backwards.
"Her eyes rolled over and she turned a grayish-whitish color. She just blinked twice and her mouth was left open."
Kooner said the case raised many questions.
Gurkiren Kaur is seen with brother Simram and parents Santokh Singh Loyal and Amrit Kaur as they set off for their holiday in India.
"Did the clinic doctor have her organs in mind when he gave her this injection?" she asked. "Or was she the victim of medical incompetence who then had the organs removed by somebody at the hospital? What has happened to these organs? We just don't know."
Kooner conceded that it was possible the girl had been the victim of a series of individual acts of incompetence, but added: "Gurkiren was a happy, healthy girl who was laughing and joking until this injection. We will never be able to investigate the cause of her death until these organs are found."
The girl's parents also remain convinced of a sinister explanation for the missing organs. "I knew my innocent child had been murdered," Amrit told the Birmingham Mail.
In a statement, Britain's Foreign Office said: "We can confirm the death of a British national in Punjab, India, on April 2. We are providing consular assistance in the case and cannot comment further."
In addition to the black market for organs, there is a legitimate global trade in human tissue taken from bodies - supposedly with the prior consent of the deceased.
A recent investigation found that, in the United States, an estimated two million products derived from human tissue are sold each year, a figure that has doubled over the past decade.