A Birmingham consultant has warned that kidney patients are risking death by going to the Asian sub-continent to pay donors for organs.
Dr Indranil Dasgupta, a consultant nephrologist at Heartlands Hospital, said more than a quarter of West Midlands patients who tried to overcome the shortage in the UK by taking advantage of the controversial trade in kidneys in Pakistan, died or saw the organ fail.
He will present his findings this week and wants to broaden his study out across the Midlands to discover how wide-ranging the problem of 'kidney tourists' is.
Dr Dasgupta tracked the ten-year progress of 30 patients from Heartlands, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire, who had travelled to India or Pakistan for a kidney transplant operation.
He found the patients were almost ten per cent less likely to survive a year after the operation than they were in the UK, with one in eight dying as a result of their procedure.
A third came back with life-threatening or chronic infections.
His study followed a local BBC TV crew from documentary series Inside Out which travelled to Madras to investigate the trade.
It found people from the West Midlands, faced with an acute shortage of kidney donors from people from ethnic groups, buying kidneys in Pakistan and India for between #10,000 and #100,000.
Researchers uncovered a trail of bribery among magistrates and hospitals to facilitate the process, and a countless stream of young men who had sold a kidney or were ready to do so for money to pay off debts or finance family celebrations.
The youngest of Dr Dasgupta's patients who went abroad for a kidney transplant was 22 and the oldest 87.
The average age of the patients was 47.
Dr Dasgupta said more than 50 per cent of the patients who opted for such an extreme course of action were not on the transplant list – usually deemed too high risk for a kidney transplant, because of complicated medical conditions.
Others were dismayed at the prospect of attending hospital for dialysis three times a week.
There were other cases, he said, where the patient went for a transplant and came back with a kidney which did not work, and others who did not come back.
"For a start you don't know what sort of matching they have had and the documentation they present afterwards is often poor. It depends what centre they go to," he said. Dr Dasgupta will present the findings of his study to the US Society of Nephrology in San Diego on Friday.