A Mother’s Pain: Kerala Woman Puts Her Organs on Sale to Pay for Children’s Medical Bills

Social Commentary

A Mother’s Pain: Kerala Woman Puts Her Organs on Sale to Pay for Children’s Medical Bills

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

It’s no secret that the last six months have led to a lot of hardship across the country. With job opportunities on the decline and the coronavirus pandemic continuing to infect thousands every day, even states like Kerala, that have been praised for its handling of the pandemic, have been reeling from the effects.

Last week, a woman in Kochi staged a protest on the side of the road. After realising that she wouldn’t have the money to pay for her children’s medical bills, the woman pledged to sell all her organs, including her heart, in exchange for money.

Santhi, a 44-year-old woman, moved out of her rented house on Sunday night along with her four sons and a daughter, and set up a tarpaulin tent on the side of a busy road near Mulavukad to begin her protest. Through a placard, she announced her plan to sell her organs, and the six members of the family braced heavy rainfall through the night.

Her eldest son, Santhi told The Indian Express, had met with an accident last July, which led to injuries on his head and legs. “He’s still not completely fit. My daughter needs surgeries for her head and eyes due to an accident she suffered in 2013,” she said.

“My second son has been mentally ill since his birth. He had swelling inside his stomach for which he was operated at the age of 7. He’s now 23, unable to work,” she told the newspaper. To make matters worse, Santhi’s husband abandoned her when she was pregnant with her youngest child, and she had to give up her job as a driver to take care of the family. The medical bills have now pushed her over the edge.

Santhi’s protest went on to attract a lot of attention from the local media, following which the police shifted the family to a temporary shelter.

On Monday, the government stepped in, promising to help Santhi. State Health Minister K K Shailaja, who has been praised for the way she has handled the pandemic, spoke to her on the phone and promised to do what she could to help.

Even locals stepped in to help, offering to cover the family’s rent. Santhi and her children eventually moved back into their home on Monday. Hopefully, with this outpouring of help, Santhi will no longer have to do something drastic in order to care for her family.