Pakistani girl gets heart transplant in Chennai, but not everyone is happy

Ayesha Rashan, the 19-year-old Pakistan national, had been on the waiting list for receiving a heart since 2019. In January 2024, she was allotted the heart of a 69-year-old donor which was airlifted to Chennai for Ayesha’s surgery.
Pakistani girl gets heart transplant in Chennai, but not everyone is happy
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From shaming the healthcare system for allegedly prioritising a foreigner for organ donations over Indian nationals, and invoking religious and regional hatred towards Pakistan nationals, to commenting on the surgery cost having been borne by an NGO in Chennai, right wing social media users have expressed outrage at the news of a 19-year-old Pakistani girl having undergone a heart transplant surgery in Chennai.

“Here we are giving our hearts to Pakistanis, which could have been given to one of our countrymen on the waiting list,” @Dataflixed an X (formerly known as Twitter) user wrote. Regardless of the outrage, that is not how the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO), a body under the Government of India (GOI) functions.

The list of foreign nationals seeking organs is shared with NOTTO, which functions under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and an organ will only be allotted to a foreigner if there are no Indians on the waiting list. This was confirmed by the former Director of NOTTO, Dr Vasanthi Ramesh in 2018, after reports claimed that private institutions were preferring foreigners over Indian nationals. 

It is learnt that Ayesha Rashan, the 19-year-old Pakistan national, has been on NOTTOs waiting list since 2019. It was only in January 2024, five years after she placed her request, that the heart of a 69-year-old donor from Delhi was allotted to her. Ayesha visited India first in 2014 for treatment when doctors fitted a heart pump to aid her but that proved to be ineffective later. 

The organ was airlifted to Chennai for Ayesha’s surgery. The transplant was performed in Chennai-based MGM healthcare and her treatment cost was borne by an NGO named Aiswarya Trust. Former patients and doctors also contributed to settle her treatment bills.

Doctor KG Suresh Rao from MGM healthcare, told PTI, “For us patients are patients. We don’t look at their religion or their place of birth. We will do whatever is possible to help. In this case, we didn’t see if she was a Pakistani or Indian. She is a patient, and a young girl.” 

Senior cardiac surgeon Dr KR Balakrishnan who has been treating Ayesha since 2019 told PTI that Ayesha’s mother was a single parent and that the family didn’t have the resources or finances to continue their daughter’s treatment.

An X user @colourSaffron wrote, “Why is India doing free heart transplant, there are many poor people in India who needs more than these thankless people!” Another user @chaijeeevi. wrote, “They won't even talk about treating us before the payment formalities and here they are giving free treatments to enemies!”

Condemning the polarised take of Indian social media users, Dr Cyriac Abby Philips, known as @TheLiverDoc on X, said, “This is news related to medical care. A large number of people in the comments section do not understand (or maybe have forgotten or brainwashed) what humanism means. It is the core of medical practice. There is absolutely no regard for anything in medicine other than looking at the other person as a fellow human. The buck stops there,” he said. He added that healthcare is a universal right and said, “Shame on some of the people commenting negatively.” 

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