This article titled “Pakistan police arrest four people accused of stealing spinal fluid” was written by Memphis Barker in Islamabad, for theguardian.com on Monday 12th February 2018 18.33 Asia/Kolkata
Police in Pakistan have arrested four suspected members of a gang accused of tapping a 17-year-old girl’s spinal fluid without her knowledge and selling it on the black market.
According to police in the city of Hafizabad, the gang pretended to be government officials carrying out medical research. The gang promised the victim’s father was promised a monthly fee in exchange for his consent to a blood test, saying the money could go towards his daughter’s dowry.
“It’s one of the strangest cases of my career,” Afzal Butt, of the Hafizabad police department, told the Guardian.
Spinal fluid aids diagnosis of diseases such as cancer or meningitis. But police speculated that the liquid, which is extracted by inserting a needle through the vertebrae of the spine, could be sold to “desi hakeems”, or homeopaths.
On Saturday, the victim’s father noticed something was wrong when hs daughter came home feeling weak after the procedure.
Local media reported that the gang had extracted teenager’s bone marrow. But Dr Rehan Azhar, a medical superintendent at Hafizabad hospital, said an examination carried out by his staff revealed the injection was made for the purposes of spinal fluid removal.
Bone marrow extraction, he said, was a complicated procedure, while the removal of spinal fluid was relatively simple. But Azhar added that it did not know why the gang did it.
After the girl’s father registered a formal complaint with police, officers raided a location in the east of the city, finding a bottle and a syringe.
All four members of the gang are under investigation. Since the 17-year-old was stripped naked for the procedure, they could also face charges relating to sexual abuse, said Butt.
Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province, has ordered for the girl to receive free follow-up medical treatment as well as a report on the incident from Hafizabad police.
Hafizabad lies in Punjab’s so-called “kidney fields”, a route between Islamabad and Lahore known for the presence of organ traffickers.
In 2010, Pakistan outlawed the commercial trade in human body parts, introducing jail sentence of up to 10 years. Yet patchy implementation has eroded initial gains against the trade.
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