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    « Aung San Suu Kyi's Release: A Bitter Sweet Moment | Main | The US EPA Is 55 Years Behind Schedule In Compiling Data On Toxic Substances »

    Prominent Hospital Group From South Africa & UK Pleads Guilty To International Kidney Trafficking 

    One of South Africa's largest hospital groups, Netcare which also has multiple hospitals in the UK, has pleaded guilty to 102 counts related to participating in 'cash for kidneys' scam between June 2001 and November 2003. The company was charged with receiving kickbacks worth 3.8 million rand (a little over half a million USD) for doing illegal kidney transplants in South Africa. Netcare agreed to a fine of 8 million rand ($1.1 million) in exchange for which the South African government agreed to drop criminal charges against the company. In 2009 Netcare reported an operating profit of 3,700 million rand, 55% of which came from it's operations in UK and the remaining 45% from it's operations in South Africa.

    Image Source: Wiki

    The illegal transplants took place in one of South Africa's topmost hospitals, St Augustine's in Durban. On at least five occasions the hospital allegedly took kidneys from children, who technically cannot consent for such operations.

    The hospital reportedly served many wealthy Israeli clients who were in need of kidney transplant. Since the South African law mandates that the donors and receivers be related to each other, the hospital forged documents to report fake relations between the donors and recipients. Some of the Israeli recipients received kidneys from Israeli donors. But once the hospital discovered that it was more costly to recruit Israeli donors then in cost saving efforts it turned to Romanian and Brazilian donors, who were flown in and were apparently a lot cheaper to recruit in their scam.

    The Times of South Africa explains the case in an article published back in September: "Netcare, its head, Richard Friedland, Durban's St Augustine's Hospital, two transplant unit staff and an Israeli interpreter were yesterday served with summons on 11 charges. These include 109 counts of fraud, 21 counts of forgery, 21 counts of uttering, 109 counts of serious assault, and charges of contravening the Human Tissues Act and the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

    After the syndicate was exposed in 2003, five doctors were arrested two years later. Netcare was not implicated. However, after the charges against the doctors were dropped and a new investigation started, the state brought charges against Netcare for allegedly setting up the syndicate with Kallmeyer (Dr Jeffrey Kallmeyer, a prominent Nephrologist) and an Israeli "organ broker", Ilan Perry, who has turned state witness. 

    Recipients are alleged to have paid Perry between R700000 and R850000 to arrange a kidney transplant in South Africa. "The Israeli kidney suppliers were paid approximately $20000 [R141000]. Later, cheaper suppliers were sourced among Romanian and Brazilian citizens, who were paid, on average, about $6000 [R42000] for their kidneys," the state alleges.

    Perry's company, UDG, or its agents, are alleged to have paid StAugustine's Hospital before each transplant operation. Payments to Kallmeyer are believed to have been made into his Canadian bank account. At the start of the investigation, Kallmeyer fled the country and the police have not located him. The state alleges that Friedland was, as chief executive of the Netcare group and a director of StAugustine's Hospital, aware of the illegal kidney trade at the hospital, but "nevertheless permitted these operations" to continue.

    The state has convicted two of the alleged syndicate's South African "co-ordinators", Roderick Kimberly and Sushan Meir, who both pleaded guilty to related charges. Meir has since died. A Brazilian court sentenced kidney-donor recruiters Captain Ivan da Silva and Gaby Tauber to eight years in jail for their roles in the syndicate."

    When it comes to organ transplants worldwide, the demand far exceeds the supply. This has created a huge black market for organ trade. There is desperation on both ends, which is exploited by the middle men. An entire industry has sprung out of this. Those who desperately need the organs to survive are thus frequently matched with those with abject poverty, particularly in the developing world, who equally desperately need the cash to survive. Many of the Asian countries are known hubs of illicit organ trade.

    A paper published by the WHO in 2007 on this subject says: "India was a commonly known organ-exporting country, where organs from local donors are regularly transplanted to foreigners through sale and purchase. Although the number of foreign recipients seems to have decreased after the enactment of a law banning the organ trade (the Human Organ Transplantation Act of 1994), the underground organ market is still existent and resurging in India. The Voluntary Health Association of India estimates that about 2000 Indians sell a kidney every year.

    In Pakistan, according to the Sindhi Institute of Urology, approximately 2000 renal transplants were performed in 2005, of which up to two-thirds were estimated to have been performed on foreigners. In the Philippines, data obtained from the Renal Disease Control Program of the Department of Health, National Kidney Transplant Institute, show that of the 468 kidney transplants in 2003, 110 were for patients from abroad. 

    In China, around 12 000 kidney and liver transplants were performed in 2005. Most of the transplant organs were alleged to have been procured from executed prisoners, a practice which itself is criticized by the international community. The number of foreign recipients in China is difficult to estimate, but a media report offers circumstantial evidence that over half of the 900 kidney and liver transplants performed in one major transplant centre in 2004 were for non-Chinese citizens from 19 countries."

    Most of the organ recipients come from wealthy countries. The WHO paper further adds that the most common countries of origin of the organ recipients are Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the USA. Human organs have unfortunately become a commodity to be traded, to be sold by the poor (or in China's case - 'donated' by the dead) and bought by the rich in the world. 

    ~ Gauri 

    Reader Comments (1)

    News like this only shows again and again what we all had to do: draw a clear frontline against all doctors!
    November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterScherfo

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