Not Just Urban Legend

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Organ trafficking was long considered a myth. But now mounting evidence suggests it is a real and growing problem, even in America.

http://www.newsweek.com/2009/01/09/not-just-urban-legend.html

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Tráfico de órgãos: após 23 anos, acusados de retirar rins de pacientes vivos vão a júri

Açougue Humano: de onde vêm e para onde vão os órgãos transplantados no tráfico humano

Tráfico de órgãos no Brasil: íntegra da entrevista com a antropóloga Nancy Scheper-Hughes

Tráfico de órgãos humanos na Europa

Editorial da Revista Ciência Hoje da SBPC: erros declaratórios da morte encefálica

Tráfico de órgãos é terceiro crime organizado mais lucrativo no mundo, segundo Polícia Federal

Tráfico de órgãos pode movimentar 13 bilhões por ano

Tráfico de órgãos é uma realidade comprovada no Brasil e no exterior

***

By the time her work brought her back to the United States, Nancy Scheper-Hughes had spent more than a decade tracking the illegal sale of human organs across the globe. Posing as a medical doctor in some places and a would-be kidney buyer in others, she had linked gangsters, clergymen and surgeons in a trail that led from South Africa, Brazil and other developing nations all the way back to some of her own country’s best medical facilities. So it was that on an icy February afternoon in 2003, the anthropologist from the University of California, Berkeley, found herself sitting across from a group of transplant surgeons in a small conference room at a big Philadelphia hospital.

By accident or by design, she believed, surgeons in their unit had been transplanting black-market kidneys from residents of the world’s most impoverished slums into the failing bodies of wealthy dialysis patients from Israel, Europe and the United States. According to Scheper-Hughes, the arrangements were being negotiated by an elaborate network of criminals who kept most of the money themselves. For about $150,000 per transplant, these organ brokers would reach across continents to connect buyers and sellers, whom they then guided to “broker-friendly” hospitals here in the United States (places where Scheper-Hughes says surgeons were either complicit in the scheme or willing to turn a blind eye). The brokers themselves often posed as or hired clergy to accompany their clients into the hospital and ensure that the process went smoothly. The organ sellers typically got a few thousand dollars for their troubles, plus the chance to see an American city.

As she made her case, Scheper-Hughes, a diminutive 60-something with splashes of pink in her short, grayish-brown hair, slid a bulky document across the table—nearly 60 pages of interviews she had conducted with buyers, sellers and brokers in virtually every corner of the world. “People all over were telling me that they didn’t have to go to a Third World hospital, but could get the surgery done in New York, Philadelphia or Los Angeles,” she says. “At top hospitals, with top surgeons.” In interview after interview, former transplant patients had cited the Philadelphia hospital as a good place to go for brokered transplants. Two surgeons in the room had also been named repeatedly. Scheper-Hughes had no idea if those surgeons were aware that some of their patients had bought organs illegally. She had requested the meeting so that she could call the transgression to their attention, just in case.

Hospital officials told NEWSWEEK that after meeting with Scheper-Hughes, they conducted an internal review of their transplant program. While they say they found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of their surgeons, they did tighten some regulations, to ensure better oversight of foreign donors and recipients. “But that afternoon,” Scheper-Hughes says, “they basically threw me out.”

It’s little wonder. The exchange of human organs for cash or any other “valuable consideration” (such as a car or a vacation) is illegal in every country except Iran. Nonetheless, international organ trafficking—mostly of kidneys, but also of half-livers, eyes, skin and blood—is flourishing; the World Health Organization estimates that one fifth of the 70,000 kidneys transplanted worldwide every year come from the black market. Most of that trade can be explained by the simple laws of supply and demand. Increasing life spans, better diagnosis of kidney failure and improved surgeries that can be safely performed on even the riskiest of patients have spurred unprecedented demand for human organs. In America, the number of people in need of a transplant has nearly tripled during the past decade, topping 100,000 for the first time last October. But despite numerous media campaigns urging more people to mark the backs of their driver’s licenses, the number of traditional (deceased) organ donors has barely budged, hovering between 5,000 and 8,000 per year for the last 15 years.

In that decade and a half, a new and brutal calculus has emerged: we now know that a kidney from a living donor will keep you alive twice as long as one taken from a cadaver. And thanks to powerful antirejection drugs, that donor no longer needs to be an immediate family member (welcome news to those who would rather not risk the health of a loved one). In fact, surgeons say that a growing number of organ transplants are occurring between complete strangers. And, they acknowledge, not all those exchanges are altruistic. “Organ selling has become a global problem,” says Frank Delmonico, a surgery professor at Harvard Medical School and adviser to the WHO. “And it’s likely to get much worse unless we confront the challenges of policing it.”

For Scheper-Hughes, the biggest challenge has been convincing people that the problem exists at all. “It used to be a joke that came up at conferences and between surgeons,” she says. “In books and movies, you find these stories of people waking up in bathtubs full of ice with a scar where one of their kidneys used to be. People assumed it was just science fiction.” That assumption has proved difficult to dismantle. In the mid-1980s, rumors that Americans were kidnapping children throughout Central America only to harvest their organs led to brutal attacks on American tourists in the region. When those stories proved false, the State Department classified organ-trafficking reports under “urban legend.” Scheper-Hughes’s evidence, which is largely anecdotal and comes in part from interviews with known criminals, has not convinced department officials otherwise. “It would be impossible to successfully conceal a clandestine organ-trafficking ring,” Todd Leventhal, the department’s countermisinformation officer, wrote in a 2004 report, adding that stories like the ones Scheper-Hughes tells are “irresponsible and totally unsubstantiated.” In recent years, however, the WHO, Human Rights Watch and many transplant surgeons have broken with that view and acknowledged organ trafficking as a real problem.

At first, not even Scheper-Hughes believed the rumors. It was in the mid-1980s, during a study of infant mortality in the shantytowns of northern Brazil, that she initially caught wind of mythical “body snatcher” stories: vans of English-speaking foreigners would circle a village rounding up street kids whose bodies would later be found in trash bins removed of their livers, eyes, kidneys and hearts.

When colleagues in China, Africa and Colombia reported similar rumblings, Scheper-Hughes began poking around. Some stories—especially the ones about kidnapped children, stolen limbs and tourists murdered for organs—were clearly false. But it was also clear that slums throughout the developing world were full of AWOL soldiers, desperate parents and anxious teenage boys willing to part with a kidney or a slice of liver in exchange for cash and a chance to see the world—or at least to buy a car.

Before long, Scheper-Hughes had immersed herself in an underworld of surgeons, criminals and those eager to buy or sell whatever body parts could be spared. In Brazil, Africa and Moldova, newspapers advertised the sale and solicitation of human body parts while brokers trolled the streets with $100 bills, easily recruiting young sellers. In Istanbul, Scheper-Hughes posed as an organ buyer and talked one would-be seller down to $3,000 for his “best kidney.” In some of these countries, as the WHO later quantified, 60 to 70 percent of all transplant surgeries involved the transfer of organs from those countries’ citizens to “transplant tourists” who came from the developed world.

But not all organs flowed from poor countries to rich ones; Americans, for example, were both buyers and sellers in this global market. A Kentucky woman once contacted Scheper-Hughes looking to sell her kidney or part of her liver so that she could buy some desperately needed dentures. And a Brooklyn dialysis patient purchased his kidney from Nick Rosen, an Israeli man who wanted to visit America.

Unlike some organ sellers, who told of dingy basement hospitals with less equipment than a spartan kitchen, Rosen found an organ broker through a local paper in Tel Aviv who arranged to have the transplant done at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. An amateur filmmaker, Rosen documented a portion of his odyssey on camera and sent the film to Scheper-Hughes, whose research he had read about online. The video excerpt that NEWSWEEK viewed shows Rosen meeting his broker and buyer in a New York coffee shop where they haggle over price, then entering Mount Sinai and talking with surgeons—one of whom asks him to put the camera away. Finally, after displaying his post-surgery scars for the camera, Rosen is seen rolling across a hotel bed covered in $20 bills; he says he was paid $15,000. (Brokers, on the other hand, typically net around $50,000 per transplant, after travel and other expenses. In America, some insurance plans will cover at least a portion of the donor’s medical expenses.)

The money changed hands outside the hospital’s corridors, and Rosen says that he deliberately misled the Mount Sinai doctors, but that no one there challenged him. “One hospital in Maryland screened us out,” he says. Tom Diflo, a transplant surgeon at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, points out that many would-be donors do not pass the psychological screening, and that attempting to film the event would probably have set off an alarm bell or two. “But the doctors at Mount Sinai were not very curious about me,” Rosen says. “We told them I was a close friend of the guy who I sold my kidney to, and that I was donating altruistically, and that was pretty much the end of it.” Citing privacy laws, Mount Sinai officials declined to comment on the details of Rosen’s case. But spokesperson Ian Michaels says that the hospital’s screening process is rigorous and comprehensive, and assesses each donor’s motivation. “All donors are clearly advised that it is against the law to receive money or gifts for being an organ donor,” he says. “The pretransplant evaluation may not detect premeditated and skillful attempts to subvert and defraud the evaluation process.”

Because many people do donate organs out of kindness, altruism provides an easy cover for those seeking to profit. And U.S. laws can be easy to circumvent, especially for foreign patients who may pay cash and are often gone in the space of a day. Diflo, who has worked in numerous transplant wards over the past two decades, says that while they are in the minority, hospitals that perform illegal transplants certainly exist in the United States. “There are a couple places around that have reputations for doing transplants with paid donors, and then some hospitals that have a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,” he says. “It’s definitely happening, but it’s difficult to ferret out.”

Diflo became an outspoken advocate for reform several years ago, when he discovered that, rather than risk dying on the U.S. wait list, many of his wealthier dialysis patients had their transplants done in China. There they could purchase the kidneys of executed prisoners. In India, Lawrence Cohen, another UC Berkeley anthropologist, found that women were being forced by their husbands to sell organs to foreign buyers in order to contribute to the family’s income, or to provide for the dowry of a daughter. But while the WHO estimates that organ-trafficking networks are widespread and growing, it says that reliable data are almost impossible to come by. “Nancy has done truly courageous work, literally risking her life to expose these networks,” says Delmonico. “But anecdotes are impossible to quantify.”

Scheper-Hughes acknowledges that in gathering these anecdotes she has frequently bumped up against the ethical boundaries of her own profession. While UC Berkeley (which funds most of her work) granted special permission for her to go undercover, she still takes heat from colleagues: misrepresenting oneself to research subjects violates a cardinal rule of academic research. “I expect my methods to be met with criticism,” she says. “But being an anthropologist should not mean being a bystander to crimes against the vulnerable.”

While Rosen has fared well since the surgery—he recovered quickly, used the money to travel and stays in touch with his kidney recipient via Facebook—most of the donors Scheper-Hughes and her colleagues have spoken with are not so lucky. Studies show that the health risks posed by donating a kidney are negligible, but those studies were all done in developed countries. “Recovery from surgery is much more difficult when you don’t have clean water or decent food,” says Scheper-Hughes. And research on the long-term effects of organ donation—in any country—is all but nonexistent.

Last may, Scheper-Hughes once again found herself sitting across from a group of transplant surgeons. This time they were not as incredulous. More than 100 of them had come from around the world to Istanbul for a global conference on organ trafficking. Together, they wrote and signed the Declaration of Istanbul, an international agreement vowing to stop the commodification of human organs. But unless their document is followed by action, it will be no match for the thriving organ market. Even as illegal trade is exposed, a roster of Web sites promising to match desperate dialysis patients with altruistic strangers continues to proliferate unchecked. These sites have some surgeons worried. “We have no way to tell if money is changing hands or not,” says Diflo. “People who need transplants end up trying to sell themselves to potential donors, saying, ‘I have a nice family, I go to church,’ etc. Is that really how we want to allocate organs?”

Maybe not. But in the United States, the average wait time for a kidney is expected to increase to 10 years by 2010. Most dialysis patients die in half that time, and the desperate don’t always play by the rules.

***

Israeli Organ Trafficking and Theft: From Moldova to Palestine

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Leia

Legalizar o tráfico de órgãos humanos? Análise do editorial da Revista Nature, 461, 570, de 30 de setembro de 2009

Açougue Humano: de onde vêm e para onde vão os órgãos transplantados no tráfico humano

CFM será obrigado a explicar morte cerebral – Folha de São Paulo

CPI do Tráfico de Órgãos – teste da apnéia utilizado para “declarar” morte encefálica pode matar pacientes

Morte encefálica: o teste da apnéia somente é feito se houver a intenção de matar o paciente

Morte Suspeita – Editorial do Jornal do Brasil de 01.03.1999, Caderno Brasil, página 08

Tráfico de órgãos no Brasil: íntegra da entrevista com a antropóloga Nancy Scheper-Hughes

Tráfico de órgãos é terceiro crime organizado mais lucrativo no mundo, segundo Polícia Federal

Ação na justiça questiona a prática de transplantes

Morte encefálica: o teste da apnéia somente é feito se houver a intenção de matar o paciente

Transplantes: Revista dos Anestesistas recomenda em Editorial realização de anestesia geral nos doadores para que não sintam dor durante a retirada de seus órgãos. Se estão mortos para que a recomendação de anestesia geral?

Organ Harvesting: Now Defining Defenseless Human Beings as Natural Resources

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2009 November

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 2009, Pages 15-17

 

Special Report

Israeli Organ Trafficking and Theft: From Moldova to Palestine

By Alison Weir


In August Sweden’s largest daily newspaper published an article containing grisly evidence suggesting that Israel had been taking Palestinian internal organs. The article, by veteran photojournalist Donald Bostrom, called for an international investigation to discover the facts.1

In this photograph taken March 22, 2007, Vasile Dimineti holds a picture of his 24-year-old son, who died a year after selling his kidney. The family lives in the impoverished Moldovan village of Mingir, where about 40 of its 7,000 residents are thought to have sold a kidney. AFP photo/Daniel Mihailescu/Files

Israel immediately accused Bostrom and the newspaper of “anti-Semitism,” and charged that suggesting Israelis could be involved in the illicit removal of body parts constituted a modern “blood libel” (medieval stories of Jews killing people for their blood).2

Numerous Israeli partisans repeated these accusations, including Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin, who asserted that the story was “merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of European funded and promoted anti-Israel hate.”3 Others suggested that the newspaper was “irresponsible” for running such an article.4

The fact is, however, that Israeli organ harvesting—sometimes with Israeli governmental funding and the participation of high Israeli officials, prominent Israeli physicians, and Israeli ministries—has been documented for many years. Among the victims have been Palestinians.

Nancy Scheper-Hughes is Chancellor’s Professor of Medical Anthropology at the University of California Berkeley, the founder of Organ Watch, and the author of scholarly books and articles on organ trafficking. She is the pundit mainstream media call upon when they need expert commentary on the topic.5

While Scheper-Hughes emphasizes that traffickers and procurers come from numerous nations and ethnicities, including Americans and Arabs, she is unflinchingly honest in speaking about the Israeli connection:

“Israel is at the top,” she states. “It has tentacles reaching out worldwide.”6

In a lecture last year sponsored by New York’s PBS 13 Forum, Scheper-Hughes explained that Israeli organ traffickers, “had and still have a pyramid system at work that’s awesome…they have brokers everywhere, bank accounts everywhere; they’ve got recruiters, they’ve got translators, they’ve got travel agents who set up the visas.”

Lest this sound simply like a successful international concern, it’s important to understand the nature of such a business.

As Scheper-Hughes describes it, organ trafficking consists of “paying the poor and the hungry to slowly dismantle their bodies.”

Organ traffickers prey on the world’s poorest, most desperate citizens—slum dwellers, inhabitants of dying villages, people without means or hope. Traffickers promise them what seem like astronomical sums of money (from $1,000 to $10,000)—which they frequently don’t even deliver—in return for vital internal organs.

For traffickers, human body parts are commodities, to be cut out of the bodies of the poor and sold to the rich. The organ “donors” receive no follow-up care and end up worse off on many levels—physically, financially, psychologically, socially—than even their original tragic situation. Sometimes they are coerced into such “donations.”

Organ sales have been illegal in most countries for years. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which covers prevention, enforcement and sanctions in trafficking of humans, includes in its definition of human exploitation the extraction of organs for profit.7 Israel finally passed legislation against organ trafficking in 2008.8, 9

In her Forum 13 lecture Scheper-Hughes discussed the two motivations of Israeli traffickers. One was greed, she said. The other was somewhat chilling: “Revenge, restitution—reparation for the Holocaust.”

She described speaking with Israeli brokers who told her “it’s kind of ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. We’re going to get every single kidney and liver and heart that we can. The world owes it to us.’”

Scheper-Hughes says that she “even heard doctors saying that.”

For many years Israelis in need of an internal organ have gone on what experts call “transplant tourism”—traveling to other nations to obtain internal organs. Sometimes body parts are obtained from those freshly dead; more often from the desperately needy. While affluent people from numerous countries and ethnicities engage in this practice, Israel is unique in several significant ways.

First, Israelis engage in this at an extraordinarily high rate. According to a 2001 BBC report, Israelis buy more kidneys per capita than any other population.

Second, Israelis have the lowest donor rate in the world—one-fifth that of Europe, according to BBC. This is in part because there has been a widespread impression that Jewish religious law prohibits transplants as a “desecration of the body.”10 The Israeli news service Ynet reports, “the percentage of organs donated among Jews is the lowest of all the ethnic groups.”11

Third, the Israeli government has enabled the practice. For many years the Israeli health system subsidized its citizens’ “transplant holidays,” reimbursing Israelis $80,000 for medical operations abroad. Much of the remaining costs could often be obtained from government-subsidized12 Israeli insurance plans.13 In addition, Israel’s Ministry of Defense was directly involved.

Scheper-Hughes discussed Israeli organ trafficking in detail in 2001 in published testimony to the Subcommittee on International Relations and Human Rights of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.14 In her extensive testimony, Scheper-Hughes stated that although Israel had become a pariah for its organ policies, Israeli officials exhibited “amazing tolerance … toward outlawed ‘transplant tourism.’”

She described an international syndicate which was “organized through a local business corporation in conjunction with a leading transplant surgeon, operating out of a major medical center not far from Tel Aviv,” and which had forged links with transplant surgeons in Turkey, Russia, Moldavia, Estonia, Georgia, Romania, and New York City.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense was directly involved in what Scheper-Hughes called Israel’s “‘illicit [in other nations] national ‘program’ of transplant tourism…Members of the Ministry of Defense or those closely related to them” accompanied transplant junkets.

In her Forum 13 lecture, Scheper-Hughes said that investigating Israeli organ trafficking over the past decade had taken her “from country to country to country to country.”

One of these is Moldova, the poorest country in Europe—and homeland of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman—where 90 percent of the people earn less than $2 a day. A 2001 BBC report on organ trafficking described the situation: “Hundreds of Israelis have created a production line that starts in the villages of Moldova, where men today are walking around with one kidney.15

Another is Brazil, where a legislative commission found that 30 [it may actually have been as high as 60] Brazilians from impoverished neighborhoods had sold their kidneys to a trafficking ring headed by Israelis, with Israeli citizens receiving almost all of the organs, and the Israeli government providing most of the funding.16

The ring had also begun inquiring about buying other vital organs from poor residents, including lungs, livers and corneas.17

An Inter Press Service (IPS) news story from the time reported that Scheper-Hughes testified to the commission that international trafficking of human organs had begun some 12 years earlier, promoted by Zaki Shapira, head of kidney transplant services at Bellinson Medical Center, near Tel Aviv.

Scheper-Hughes reported that Shapira had performed more than 300 kidney transplants, sometimes accompanying his patients to other countries such as Turkey. The recipients were very wealthy or had very good health insurance, and the “donors” very poor people from Eastern Europe, the Philippines and other developing countries.

The chairman of the Brazilian commission, physician Raimundo Pimentel, was outraged at Israeli policies, pointing out that trafficking can only take place on a large scale if there is a major source of financing, such as the Israeli health system. Pimentel charged that the resources provided by the Israeli health system “were a determining factor” in enabling a network that preyed on society’s poorest populations.

In 2004 there were reports that Israeli traffickers had added China to their target donor populations.18 In one recent case an Israeli paid an organ broker $100,000 for a kidney transplant in China from an 18-year-old Chinese girl. She received $5,000 and died following surgery.19

New York Times reporter Larry Rohter pointed out that allowing brokers to operate with few restrictions benefited Israel “by exporting Israel’s organ shortage overseas.” Rohter cites a kidney specialist at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem who explained that patients who go abroad “‘save the country a lot of money; not only in terms of what doesn’t have to be spent on dialysis, but also by opening places for other people who are on the list.’”20

Many people find governmental complicity in organ trafficking deeply troubling on moral and philosophical grounds.

As Scheper-Hughes testified: “The sale of human organs and tissues requires that certain disadvantaged individuals, populations, and even nations have been reduced to the role of ‘suppliers.’

“It is a scenario in which only certain bodies are broken, dismembered, fragmented, transported, processed, and sold in the interests of a more socially advantaged population…of receivers.” She believes that the risks and benefits of organ transplant surgery should be more equally distributed among nations, ethnic groups, and social classes.

Organ theft


It is difficult to know how often Israeli trafficking involves outright theft of vital organs from living human beings.

It is not rare for the “donor” to receive little or none of the compensation promised. For example, in 2007 Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that two Israelis had confessed to persuading Palestinians “from the Galilee and central Israel who were developmentally challenged or mentally ill to agree to have a kidney removed for payment.” According to the Haaretz report, after the organ had been taken the traffickers refused to pay for them.

On occasion, people are coerced into giving up their organs. For example, Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, the alleged Brooklyn trafficker recently arrested in an FBI sweep in New Jersey, reportedly carried a gun. When a potential organ seller would try to back out, Rosenbaum would use his finger to simulate firing a gun at the person’s head.

The Rosenbaum case, reportedly part of a ring centered in Israel, is the first case of trafficking to be prosecuted in the US. His arrest and the substantial evidence against him may have surprised State Department Countermisinformation Director Todd Leventhal, who had characterized organ trafficking as an “urban legend,” stating, “It would be impossible to successfully conceal a clandestine organ-trafficking ring.” Leventhal called such reports “irresponsible and totally unsubstantiated.”

More often organ theft involves dead bodies—or those alleged to be dead.

Israel’s very first successful heart transplant, in fact, used a stolen heart.

In 1968 Avraham Sadegat unexpectedly died two days after being hospitalized in Beilinson Hospital in Israel’s Petah Tikva for a stroke. When his family finally was able to retrieve his body (the hospital initially refused to release it) they found his chest covered with bandages; odd, they thought, for a stroke victim. Upon removing these they discovered that the chest cavity was stuffed with bandages and the heart was missing.21

During this time, the Israeli press was heralding the historic heart transplant, performed by a team of surgeons who were to become some of Israel’s most celebrated physicians, among them Dr. Morris Levy, Dr. Bernardo Vidne, and Dr Jack Solomon, who harvested the heart.22

When the family began to ask questions, the hospital denied any connection. After the man’s wife and brother had raised a media furor, petitioned three cabinet ministers—and agreed to sign a document that they would not sue—the hospital finally admitted it was Sadegat’s heart that had been used.

Haaretz quoted Sadegat’s tearful wife: “They treated him like an alley cat. From the moment he entered the hospital, they apparently saw him only as a potential source of organs and not as a man in need of treatment. They only thought about how to do the deed without us knowing.”

Sadegat’s medical condition before his heart was removed has not been made public. It is possible—perhaps probable—that up until his heart was removed it was still beating; according to an Israeli media report, “once a heart stops beating, it is no longer fit for transplantation.”23

Even if he was what is now termed “brain dead,” the general view is that family members should at least be a party to decisions regarding the patient: first, whether to “pull the plug,” and, second, whether to donate an organ. At the time, however, Israeli law allowed organs to be harvested without the family’s consent.

Forty years later the hospital held an anniversary celebration of the transplant, despite the fact that, according to Haaretz, the heart had been obtained “through deceit and trickery.” The festivities, which honored surviving members of the transplant team, featured balloons and a red, heart-shaped cake.

In this incident of organ theft (and from a possibly living body), the family was Israeli. Had the wife and brother been Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza, they would not have possessed the power to force a confession from the hospital, and it is likely that those individuals today calling the Swedish article a “blood libel” or “irresponsible journalism” would have applied the same epithets to journalists reporting questions concerning the historic Israeli heart transplant—if any reporters even bothered or dared to do so.

Yehuda Hiss, keeper of the morgue


Perhaps one of the most long-term and high-level cases of organ theft—and one that involves Palestinian as well as Israeli organs—concerns an extraordinarily high official: Dr. Yehuda Hiss, Israel’s chief pathologist and, from 1988 through 2004, director of Israel’s state morgue, the L. Greenberg Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir.

An early indication of malfeasance came to light in 1998 and concerned a Scottish man named Alisdair Sinclair, who had died under questionable circumstances after being taken into custody at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport.

The Israeli story, as reported by the Israeli news magazine Jerusalem Report, is that Sinclair had confessed to transporting drugs, even though none were found, although he was in possession of 9,000 German marks ($5,000). He then, the police claim, hanged himself by looping his shoelaces and T-shirt around a towel bar about a meter off the ground and slipped the improvised noose around his neck. From a squatting position, the police story goes, he repeatedly threw his bodyweight downward, choking himself.

Sinclair did not die, however, and medics were able to restore a heartbeat. He was transferred to a hospital where, according to the magazine report, the hospital’s associate director, Dr. Yigal Halperin, said that Sinclair “had suffered irreversible brain damage, and there was little doctors could do for him. Left in a corner of the emergency room, he died at 7 p.m. [It’s unknown whether he had been put on life support.] His corpse was transferred to the Institute for Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir for an autopsy.”

Afterwards, Israeli authorities located Sinclair’s family and gave them three weeks to dispose of the body. They suggested that he be buried in a Christian cemetery in Israel, pointing out that this would be one-third the cost of shipping the body back to Scotland. However, the grieving family scraped up the money to bring him home.

They had a second autopsy performed by Glasgow University, only to discover that Sinclair’s heart and a small bone in his throat called the hyoid were missing. The British Embassy filed a complaint with Israel, and a heart was sent to Scotland. According to the Jerusalem Report, the family “wanted the Forensic Institute to pay for a DNA test to confirm that this heart was indeed their brother’s, but the Institute’s director, Prof. Jehuda Hiss, refused, citing the prohibitive cost.”

Despite a protest from the British government, Israel refused to supply Hiss’s pathology findings or the police report. According to the British government and a report in the Israeli media, around the time of Sinclair’s death a doctor at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital put in a request for a hyoid bone for research purposes—and eventually received a bill for shipping costs.24 Israel retained Sinclair’s $5,000.

Through the years Hiss and the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic medicine continued to be accused of organ theft. In 2000 the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot published an investigative report alleging that Hiss had been extracting organs without permission and then packing the bodies with broomsticks and cotton wool to fill in cavities before burial. The report charged that under Hiss the institute had been involved in organ sales of body parts—“legs, thighs, ovaries, breasts and testicles,” allegedly to medical institutions.

In 2001 a district judge found the Institute had performed hundreds of autopsies and had removed body parts without the families’ permission—and sometimes in direct opposition to their expressed wishes.25 One report described a “museum of skulls” at the institute.

Little was done, however, and complaints continued—often by the parents of dead Israeli soldiers horrified to discover that body parts had been taken from their sons. Finally, in 2004 Israel’s health minister transferred directorship of the morgue itself away from Hiss. Hiss, however, retained his position as Israel’s chief pathologist, a post it appears he holds to this day.26, 27

Hiss had also been connected with two previous national scandals, both of which may have involved powerful people in Israel, which may account for his longevity in Israel’s medical establishment despite years of proven wrongdoing.

The first controversy concerned the “Yemenite Children’s Affair”—a situation, largely from the early 1950s, in which a thousand babies and small children of recent immigrants to Israel had “disappeared.”

When the immigrants had arrived as part of Israel’s “ingathering of the exiles,” babies were immediately taken from their mothers and placed in children’s houses. Many were hospitalized for a variety of ills, and hundreds died, their deaths coming in such large numbers that they were announced over loudspeakers.

The distraught parents often never saw the body or received a death certificate, and there were growing suspicions that not all had died—some, it was believed, had been “given” to Ashkenazi parents. One author writes: “It was a well-known fact within the Jewish community in the United States that if a family wanted a child they could go to [baby brokers, both rabbis] and simply pay the necessary fee.”28

Some Israeli investigators have found considerable evidence for these charges, and indications of complicity at multiple levels of the power structure. In fact, one researcher charges: “People in positions of power at the time that the State of Israel was established profited from the abduction and sale of children from poor immigrant families.”29

Hiss’ connection comes in 1997, when Israel finally had formed a committee to investigate the disappearance of Yemenite and other Jewish children in the years 1948-1954. Among those testifying before this committee was a California woman who had come to Israel searching for her biological mother—and, according to DNA testing by a geneticist at Hebrew University, had found her.

The committee demanded that another DNA test be conducted at the Abu Kabir forensic institute. As at least one observer predicted ahead of time, Hiss’s test came up negative, and the government was allegedly exonerated, despite the fact that the geneticist who had conducted the first tests stood by his results.30

Hiss also plays a role in some conspiracy theories regarding the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, who had begun a peace process with Palestinians. In March 1999 a group of academics presented findings alleging that Hiss had submitted false evidence to the commission that investigated the killing.31

Palestinian Victims


Israelis have also targeted Palestinians, a particularly vulnerable population on numerous levels.

In her congressional subcommittee testimony, Scheper-Hughes reported that before he moved overseas, Israeli hospital transplant head Zaki Shapira had located kidney sellers “amongst strapped Palestinian workers in Gaza and the West Bank.” She said that his “hand was slapped by an ethics board,” and he moved his practice overseas.

For decades numerous Palestinians and others have charged Israel with taking body parts from Palestinians they had wounded or killed.

In her subcommittee testimony, Scheper-Hughes testified that toward the end of the apartheid period in South Africa, “human rights groups in the West Bank complained to me of tissue and organs stealing of slain Palestinians by Israeli pathologists at the national Israeli legal medical institute in Tel Aviv.”

A Washington Report for Middle East Affairs article by Mary Barrett (see “Autopsies and Executions,” April 1990 Washington Report, p. 21) reported “widespread anxiety over organ thefts which has gripped Gaza and the West Bank since the intifada began in December of 1987.”

Barrett quotes a forensic physician: “There are indications that for one reason or another, organs, especially eyes and kidneys, were removed from the bodies during the first year or year and a half. There were just too many reports by credible people for there to be nothing happening. If someone is shot in the head and comes home in a plastic bag without internal organs, what will people assume?”

A 2002 news story from IRNA reported that three Palestinian boys aged 14-15 had been killed by Israeli forces on Dec. 30, their bodies finally being returned for burial on Jan. 6. According to the report: “shortly before burial, Palestinian medical authorities examined the bodies and found out that the main vital organs were missing from the bodies.” In an interview on Al Jazeera, President Yasser Arafat held up photos of the boys, saying, “They murder our kids and use their organs as spare parts.”

Journalist Khalid Amayreh, recently investigating this topic further, found that “several other Palestinians gave a similar narrative, recounting how they received the bodies of their murdered relatives, mostly men in their early twenties, with vital organs taken away by the Israeli authorities.”

Israel has consistently characterized such accusations as “anti-Semitic,” and numerous other journalists have discounted them as exaggerations.

However, according to the pro-Israel Forward magazine, the truth of these charges was, in fact, confirmed by an Israeli governmental investigation a number of years ago.

In a recent story critical of the Swedish article, the Forward actually confirmed its main point, that Israel had been taking the body parts of slain Palestinians. The Forward article reported that one of the governmental investigations into Hiss had revealed that “he seemed to view every body that ended up in his morgue, whether Israeli or Palestinian, as fair game for organ harvesting.”32

Over the years, a great many Palestinian bodies have “ended up” in the Israeli morgue. In numerous cases Israeli occupation forces have taken custody of wounded or dead Palestinians. Sometimes their bodies are never returned to their grieving families—Palestinian NGOs say there are at least 250 such cases.

In other cases the bodies have been returned to the families days later, with crudely stitched naval-to-chin incisions. On many occasions Israeli soldiers have delivered the bodies late at night and required the bereaved families to bury their children, husbands, and brothers immediately, under Israeli military guard, sometimes with the electricity shut off.

In 2005 an Israeli soldier33 described a military doctor who gave “medics lessons in anatomy” using the bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces. Haaretz reports: “The soldier said that the Palestinian’s body had been riddled with bullets and that some of his internal organs had spilled out. The doctor pronounced the man dead and then ‘took out a knife and began to cut off parts of the body,’ the soldier said.

“‘He explained the various parts to us—the membrane that covers the lungs, the layers of the skin, the liver, stuff like that,’ the soldier continued. ‘I didn’t say anything because I was still new in the army. Two of the medics moved away, and one of them threw up. It was all done very brutally. It was simply contempt for the body.’”34

While most Israeli investigations into organ theft have largely ignored the Palestinian component, a number of significant facts are known:

  • Palestinian organs were harvested during years of an astonishingly lax system in which the body parts even of Jewish Israelis were extracted illicitly at the national morgue by the chief pathologist and exchanged for money.
  • Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are largely a captive population. Numerous reports by highly reputable Israeli and international organizations have documented a situation in which Palestinians have few if any real rights; Israeli forces have killed civilians with impunity, imprisoned massive numbers of people without benefit of trials, and routinely abused prisoners.
  • Israeli authorities have conducted numerous autopsies of Palestinians without permission of their families, without even a semblance of public transparency, and without, it appears, accompanying reports. For example, the families of those who were taken while still alive are not provided with a medical report stating time and cause of death.
  • A very small but significant minority of Israelis, including military officers and governmental ministers, hold extremist supremacist views relevant to organ extraction. In 1996, Jewish Week reported that Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburgh, a leader of the Lubavitch sect of Judaism and the dean of a religious Jewish school in a West Bank settlement, stated: “If a Jew needs a liver, can you take the liver of an innocent non-Jew passing by to save him? The Torah would probably permit that.” Ginzburgh elaborated: “Jewish life has infinite value. There is something infinitely more holy and unique about Jewish life than non-Jewish life.” [The Jewish Week, April 26, 1996, pp. 12, 31]

While most Israelis strenuously repudiate such beliefs, Rabbi Moshe Greenberg, an Israeli scholar on Jewish scriptural views on racism and ethnic chauvinism, has said, “The sad thing is, these statements are in our books.” Greenberg, who was a professor at Hebrew University, pointed out that such Talmudic texts were “purely theoretical” at the time of their writing, because Jews did not have the power to carry them out. Now, he pointed out, “they’re carried over into circumstances where Jews have a state and are empowered.”

While it is impossible to know whether any Israelis have ever acted on such religious permission to kill a non-Jew in order to provide body parts to Jews, some observers have considered this a possibility.

Dr. A. Clare Brandabur, a distinguished American scholar who has lived and traveled extensively in Palestine, writes that the information published in the Swedish article “resonates with reports from Palestinians in Gaza which I heard during the first intifada.”

She comments, “When I interviewed Dr. Haidar Abdul Shafi, head of the Red Crescent in Gaza, I mentioned to him reports of shootings of Palestinian children at times when there were no ‘clashes’ going on—a solitary 6-year-old entering his schoolyard in the morning with his bookbag on his back. The soldiers abducted the wounded child at gunpoint, then his body would be returned a few days later having undergone an ‘autopsy at Abu Kabir Hospital.’”

She says: “I asked Dr. Shafi if he had considered the possibility that these killings were being done for organ transplant, since (as Israel Shahak notes in Jewish History, Jewish Religion), it is not allowed to take Jewish organs to save a Jewish life, but it is allowed to take the organs of non-Jews to save Jewish lives. Dr. Shafi said he had suspected such things but since they had no access to the records of Abu Kabir Hospital, there was no way to verify these suspicions.”

Scheper-Hughes, in her congressional testimony, describes the danger of “organs got by any means possible including (I was told by one guilt-ridden practitioner) chemically inducing the signs of brain death in dying patients of no means and with access to minimal social support or family surveillance.”

Whether or not there have ever been organ-inspired murders in Israel as it appears there have elsewhere, numerous groups around the world are urging an international investigation into Israel’s handling of Palestinian bodies in its custody.

However, the Israeli government and its powerful advocates abroad, who regularly block investigations into Israeli actions, are doing their utmost to prevent this one.35, 36 Several lawsuits have been filed against the Swedish newspaper, the largest by Israeli lawyer and IDF officer Guy Ophir, who filed a $7.5 million lawsuit in New York against the newspaper and Bostrom. Ophir declared that Israel must “silence the reporter and the newspaper.”37

International investigations, of course, have two results: the innocent are absolved, the guilty discovered.

It is clear which category Israel believes it falls into.


Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew and is on the board of the Council for the National Interest.

 

An Internet petition calling for an investigation can be viewed at

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/investigateorgantheft/

Footnotes:

1 Bostrom, Donald, “Our sons plundered for their organs,” Aftonbladet, Aug. 17, 2009 , translated by Tlaxcala.

http://www.tlaxcala.es/pp.asp?reference=8390&lg=en

(Original Swedish version at http://www.aftonbladet.se/kultur/article5652583.ab )

2 Israel Insider, “Netanyahu to press Sweden to condemn blood libel,” Aug. 23, 2009

http://israelinsider.ning.com/profiles/blogs/netanyahu-to-press-sweden-to

3 Tobin, Jonathan, “Swedish Anti-Semites Dig Up a Blood Libel,” CommentaryMagazine.com, Aug. 20, 2009

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/tobin/76522

4 Cassel, Matthew, “Baseless organ theft accusations will not bring Israel to justice,” The Electronic Intifada, Aug. 24, 2009

http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10730.shtml

5Scheper-Hughes, Nancy, “The Organ of Last Resort,” UNESCO, http://www.unesco.org, July, 2001

http://www.unesco.org/courier/2001_07/uk/doss34.htm

University of California Berkeley Anthropology Faculty CV: Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Chancellor’s Professor in Medical Anthropology, Head, Doctoral Program in Medical Anthropology, Critical Studies in Medicine, Science and the Body, Director, Organs Watch

http://anthropology.berkeley.edu/nsh.html

6 Griffin, Drew and David Fitzpatrick, “Donor says he got thousands for his kidney,” CNN Special Investigations Unit, CNN, Sept. 2, 2009

http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/09/01/blackmarket.organs/index.html

7Osava, Mario, “BRAZIL: Poor Sell Organs to Trans-Atlantic Trafficking Ring,” Inter Press Service (IPS), Feb. 23, 2004

http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=22524

8 Yeshiva World News, “CNN: Israel a Leader in Organ Trafficking,” Sept. 3, 2009

http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/General+News/38973/CNN:+Israel+a+Leader+in+Organ+Trafficking.html

9Chabin, Michele, “Organ Donation: Legal, But Still Controversial,” Jewish Week, April 9, 2008

http://www.thejewishweek.com/viewArticle/c40_a7588/News/Israel.html

10Rohter, Larry, “Tracking the Sale of a Kidney on a Path of Poverty and Hope,” The New York Times, May 23, 2004

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/23/international/americas/23BRAZ.html?th=&pagewanted=print&position=

11Shapira-Rosenberg, Efrat, “A mitzvah called organ donation,” Ynet News, June 10, 2007

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3388529,00.html

12 Rohter, Larry, op. cit.

13Ibid.

14 “Organs for Sale: China’s Growing Trade and Ultimate Violation of Prisoners’ Rights,” Hearing Before the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights of the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, 107th Congress, First Session, June 27, 2001, Serial No. 107–29

http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/intlrel/hfa73452.000/hfa73452_0f.htm

15 Lloyd-Roberts, Sue, “Europe’s poorest country supplying organs to its neighbours,” BBC Newsnight, 9/7/01

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/events/newsnight/1437345.stm

16 “BRAZIL: Poor Sell Organs to Trans-Atlantic Trafficking Ring,” Mario Osava, IPS, Feb. 23, 2004

http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=22524

17New York Times

18 “Israeli organ traffickers shift operations to China,” BioEdge, June 4, 2004

http://www.bioedge.org/index.php/bioethics/bioethics_article/7726/ http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/23/international/americas/23BRAZ.html?th=&pagewanted=print&position=

19 “CNN: Israel a Leader in Organ Trafficking,” Yeshiva World News, Sept. 3, 2009

http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/General+News/38973/CNN:+Israel+a+Leader+in+Organ+Trafficking.html

20“Tracking the Sale of a Kidney on a Path of Poverty and Hope,” New York Times, Larry Rohter, May 23, 2004

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/23/international/americas/23BRAZ.html?th

21 “40 years after Israel’s first transplant, donor’s family says his heart was stolen,” Dana Weiler-Polak, Haaretz, Dec., 14, 2008

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1046041.html

22“40 years on, medical staffers from Israel’s first human heart transplant reminisce about the feat,” Judy Siegel, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 7, 2008

http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1P1-159077338.html

23“Shas swing vote pushes through organ donor law,” Shahar Ilan, Haaretz, March 25, 2008

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/968084.html

“With top rabbis’ blessing, Knesset approves organ donation law,” Shahar Ilan, Haaretz, Aug. 7, 2008

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/967871.html

24 “Scottish Tourist’s Family Rejects Out-of-Court Settlement,” Netty C. Gross, The Jerusalem Report, Jan. 29, 2001

25“Attorney-General lodges complaint against Abu Kabir coroner,” Dan Izenbert, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 11, 2003

26 “Hiss fired for repeated body-part scandals,” Judy Siegel, Jerusalem Post, May 11, 2004

27 “Infamous Chief Pathologist to Once Again Evade Punishment,” Ezra HaLevi, Arutz Sheva Israel National News, Sept. 26, 2005

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/90518

28 “Were the Children Sold?” Yechiel A. Mann, Stop-Abuse.net

http://stop-abuse.net/ym5.htm

29 “The Missing Children,” Yechiel A. Mann, Stop-Abuse.net

http://stop-abuse.net/ym1.htm

30 “Infamous Chief Pathologist to Once Again Evade Punishment,” Ezra HaLevi, Arutz Sheva Israel National News, Sept. 26, 2005

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/90518

31“Infamous Chief Pathologist to Once Again Evade Punishment,” Ezra HaLevi, Arutz Sheva Israel National News, Sept. 26, 2005

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/90518

32“Illicit Body-Part Sales Present Widespread Problem,”

By Rebecca Dube, Forward, Published Aug. 26, 2009, issue of Sept. 4, 2009

http://www.forward.com/articles/112915/

33“Palestinian corpse used for IDF anatomy lesson,” Amos Harel, Haaretz, Jan. 28, 2005

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=533018

34 “The Swedish canard—not only smoke, but also fire,” Shraga Elam, Aug. 25, 2009 (posted Sept. 4, 2009)

(Hebrew: http://cafe.themarker.com/view.php?t=1192567 )

http://shraga-elam.blogspot.com/2009/09/swedish-canard-not-only-smoke-but-also.html

35 “Israeli lawyer sues Swedish paper,” JTA, Aug. 27, 2009

http://jta.org/news/article/2009/08/27/1007480/israeli-lawyer-sues-swedish-paper

36 “Israeli lawyer sues ‘Aftonbladet’ in NY Court,” E.B. Solomont, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 26, 2009

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1251145124980&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

37 “Israeli Reservists To Sue Swedish Newspaper,” David Bedein, The Bulletin, August 30, 2009

http://thebulletin.us/articles/2009/09/04/news/world/doc4a9aa59f46ce3700709743.prt

__

Tráfico de órgãos para turistas, na China

Beijing Investigates Transplants for Tourists

“Chinese officials have said the state uses only prisoners’ organs that have been voluntarily donated”

Published: February 17, 2009

HONG KONG — China said Tuesday that it was investigating whether 17 Japanese tourists had received illegal kidney and liver transplants in China.

China has banned all transplants for foreigners — so-called organ tourists — because an estimated 1.5 million Chinese are on waiting lists for transplants. The ban was issued May 1, 2007.

“China strongly opposes organ transplant tourism,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement on its Web site, adding that the hospitals and medical personnel “who carried out the organ transplants against the rules will be severely dealt with according to the law.”

It was not immediately clear whether news of the investigation would increase anti-Japanese sentiment in China. Relations between the countries can be fragile, with old wounds still sensitive.

The ministry’s investigation, reported in the state-run newspaper China Daily, comes after the Japanese news agency Kyodo News reported that the 17 tourists had spent $87,000 each for the operations. The price included travel, accommodations and 20 days of treatment at a hospital in Guangzhou, in southern China, the report said.

At the request of the hospital, some of the Japanese patients registered under Chinese names, the Kyodo report said. Most of the patients were between 50 and 65 years old.

The news agency also said most of the organs were likely from executed Chinese prisoners.

Chinese officials have said the state uses only prisoners’ organs that have been voluntarily donated. Courts, doctors, health officials and hospitals must approve such transplants, and the prisoners must agree in writing, the government said.

China Daily reported that China was second only to the United States in the number of transplant operations done each year.

“Due to the lack of organ donors, shortage of organs is a problem in all countries, not just China,” Mao Qunan, a Health Ministry spokesman, said at a recent press briefing. “Priority must be given to domestic patients in urgent need of an operation.”

Last year the deputy health minister, Huang Jiefu, said his ministry had punished three Chinese hospitals for selling organs to foreigners. The disclosure, reported in local media, came in remarks Mr. Huang made at a medical conference in Shanghai.

An investigation in China in 2004 by the British newspaper The Independent found a flourishing underground trade in organ sales and transplants, especially for Japanese patients. And in 2006, a BBC reporter went to a public hospital in the city of Tianjin, ostensibly to arrange a liver transplant for his ailing father. The reporter said hospital officials told him a suitable liver could be available in three weeks.

Earlier this month, after years of controversy over organ trafficking in China, the government said it would establish a registry for organ donors and recipients.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/18/world/asia/18organs.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

http://query.nytimes.com/search/sitesearch?date_select=full&query=Beijing+Investigates+Transplants+for+Tourists+&type=nyt&x=17&y=9

Tráfico de órgãos é uma realidade comprovada no Brasil e no exterior

A Revista Newsweek de 19 de janeiro corrente, reproduzida após estes comentários, traz mais uma reportagem sobre tráfico de órgãos.

Poucas pessoas sabem destes fatos porque a mídia recusou-se a divulgá-los para não comprometer interesses dos lucros que gravitam em torno do sistema transplantador no Brasil: no ano de 2004, houve a realização de uma CPI do Tráfico de Órgãos que comprovou a existência de tráfico de órgãos dentro de hospitais brasileiros, retirando por completo o rótulo de “lenda urbana” sobre este assunto. Mais: esta CPI, com a qual colaboramos, não constatou apenas a venda de um dos órgãos vitais duplos de pessoas que continuavam vivendo, mas o homicídio de crianças e jovens para a retirada de todos os seus órgãos. No decorrer destes acontecimentos, inclusive, o administrador de um hospital em Minas Gerais onde havia caso de tráfico conseguiu praticar “suicídio” com dois tiros na cabeça. A versão do suicídio com dois tiros foi aceita pelas autoridades e a razão pela qual ele morreu não foi investigada.

Foi constatado que o Brasil está entre os cinco países onde há maior incidência do tráfico de órgãos, junto com países como China e India.

Estes dados já eram denunciados pela antropóloga Nancy Scheper-Hughes da ONG http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/biotech/organswatch/

Neste espaço iremos disponibilizar todas as atas desta CPI. Na coluna à direita desta página pode ser consultada a categoria de links em “Tráfico de Órgãos”.

A Resolução 1752/2004 do CFM [1], quando “autorizou” os médicos a retirarem os órgãos dos anencéfalos para transplantes, procurou “oficializar” esta prática em um universo de pessoas (anencéfalas) altamente vulneráveis.

Esta Resolução do CFM tem um conteúdo homicida, pois causar a morte do anencéfalo encontra tipificação no artigo 121 do Código Penal.

Antes da reportagem da Revista Newsweek de 19 de jan. colocamos links relacionados com este assunto [2].

[1] https://biodireitomedicina.wordpress.com/2008/12/29/anencefalia-morte-encefalica-e-o-conselho-federal-de-medicina/

[2]https://biodireitomedicina.wordpress.com/2009/01/05/transplantes-revista-dos-anestesistas-recomenda-em-editorial-realizacao-de-anestesia-geral-nos-doadores-para-que-nao-sintam-dor-durante-a-retirada-de-seus-orgaos-se-estao-mortos-para-que-a-recomend/

[2] http://www.nazioneindiana.com/2008/12/19/il-mercato-degli-organi-il-buco-nero-della-globalizzazione/

[2] https://biodireitomedicina.wordpress.com/2009/01/18/a-dura-realidade-do-trafico-de-orgaos/

[2] https://biodireitomedicina.wordpress.com/2009/01/11/morte-encefalica-o-teste-da-apneia-somente-e-feito-se-houver-a-intencao-de-matar-o-paciente/

Celso Galli Coimbra – OABRS 11352

Link para esta página e para a reportagem da Revista Newsweek:

https://biodireitomedicina.wordpress.com/2009/01/27/trafico-de-orgaos-e-uma-realidade-comprovada-no-brasil/

“The World Health Organization estimates that one fifth of the 70,000 kidneys transplanted worldwide every year come from the black market.”


HEALTH

Not Just Urban Legend

Organ trafficking was long considered a myth. But now mounting evidence suggests it is a real and growing problem, even in America.

By the time her work brought her back to the United States, Nancy Scheper-Hughes had spent more than a decade tracking the illegal sale of human organs across the globe. Posing as a medical doctor in some places and a would-be kidney buyer in others, she had linked gangsters, clergymen and surgeons in a trail that led from South Africa, Brazil and other developing nations all the way back to some of her own country’s best medical facilities. So it was that on an icy February afternoon in 2003, the anthropologist from the University of California, Berkeley, found herself sitting across from a group of transplant surgeons in a small conference room at a big Philadelphia hospital.

By accident or by design, she believed, surgeons in their unit had been transplanting black-market kidneys from residents of the world’s most impoverished slums into the failing bodies of wealthy dialysis patients from Israel, Europe and the United States. According to Scheper-Hughes, the arrangements were being negotiated by an elaborate network of criminals who kept most of the money themselves. For about $150,000 per transplant, these organ brokers would reach across continents to connect buyers and sellers, whom they then guided to “broker-friendly” hospitals here in the United States (places where Scheper-Hughes says surgeons were either complicit in the scheme or willing to turn a blind eye). The brokers themselves often posed as or hired clergy to accompany their clients into the hospital and ensure that the process went smoothly. The organ sellers typically got a few thousand dollars for their troubles, plus the chance to see an American city.

As she made her case, Scheper-Hughes, a diminutive 60-something with splashes of pink in her short, grayish-brown hair, slid a bulky document across the table—nearly 60 pages of interviews she had conducted with buyers, sellers and brokers in virtually every corner of the world. “People all over were telling me that they didn’t have to go to a Third World hospital, but could get the surgery done in New York, Philadelphia or Los Angeles,” she says. “At top hospitals, with top surgeons.” In interview after interview, former transplant patients had cited the Philadelphia hospital as a good place to go for brokered transplants. Two surgeons in the room had also been named repeatedly. Scheper-Hughes had no idea if those surgeons were aware that some of their patients had bought organs illegally. She had requested the meeting so that she could call the transgression to their attention, just in case.

Hospital officials told NEWSWEEK that after meeting with Scheper-Hughes, they conducted an internal review of their transplant program. While they say they found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of their surgeons, they did tighten some regulations, to ensure better oversight of foreign donors and recipients. “But that afternoon,” Scheper-Hughes says, “they basically threw me out.”

It’s little wonder. The exchange of human organs for cash or any other “valuable consideration” (such as a car or a vacation) is illegal in every country except Iran. Nonetheless, international organ trafficking—mostly of kidneys, but also of half-livers, eyes, skin and blood—is flourishing; the World Health Organization estimates that one fifth of the 70,000 kidneys transplanted worldwide every year come from the black market. Most of that trade can be explained by the simple laws of supply and demand. Increasing life spans, better diagnosis of kidney failure and improved surgeries that can be safely performed on even the riskiest of patients have spurred unprecedented demand for human organs. In America, the number of people in need of a transplant has nearly tripled during the past decade, topping 100,000 for the first time last October. But despite numerous media campaigns urging more people to mark the backs of their driver’s licenses, the number of traditional (deceased) organ donors has barely budged, hovering between 5,000 and 8,000 per year for the last 15 years.

In that decade and a half, a new and brutal calculus has emerged: we now know that a kidney from a living donor will keep you alive twice as long as one taken from a cadaver. And thanks to powerful antirejection drugs, that donor no longer needs to be an immediate family member (welcome news to those who would rather not risk the health of a loved one). In fact, surgeons say that a growing number of organ transplants are occurring between complete strangers. And, they acknowledge, not all those exchanges are altruistic. “Organ selling has become a global problem,” says Frank Delmonico, a surgery professor at Harvard Medical School and adviser to the WHO. “And it’s likely to get much worse unless we confront the challenges of policing it.”

For Scheper-Hughes, the biggest challenge has been convincing people that the problem exists at all. “It used to be a joke that came up at conferences and between surgeons,” she says. “In books and movies, you find these stories of people waking up in bathtubs full of ice with a scar where one of their kidneys used to be. People assumed it was just science fiction.” That assumption has proved difficult to dismantle. In the mid-1980s, rumors that Americans were kidnapping children throughout Central America only to harvest their organs led to brutal attacks on American tourists in the region. When those stories proved false, the State Department classified organ-trafficking reports under “urban legend.” Scheper-Hughes’s evidence, which is largely anecdotal and comes in part from interviews with known criminals, has not convinced department officials otherwise. “It would be impossible to successfully conceal a clandestine organ-trafficking ring,” Todd Leventhal, the department’s countermisinformation officer, wrote in a 2004 report, adding that stories like the ones Scheper-Hughes tells are “irresponsible and totally unsubstantiated.” In recent years, however, the WHO, Human Rights Watch and many transplant surgeons have broken with that view and acknowledged organ trafficking as a real problem.

At first, not even Scheper-Hughes believed the rumors. It was in the mid-1980s, during a study of infant mortality in the shantytowns of northern Brazil, that she initially caught wind of mythical “body snatcher” stories: vans of English-speaking foreigners would circle a village rounding up street kids whose bodies would later be found in trash bins removed of their livers, eyes, kidneys and hearts.

When colleagues in China, Africa and Colombia reported similar rumblings, Scheper-Hughes began poking around. Some stories—especially the ones about kidnapped children, stolen limbs and tourists murdered for organs—were clearly false. But it was also clear that slums throughout the developing world were full of AWOL soldiers, desperate parents and anxious teenage boys willing to part with a kidney or a slice of liver in exchange for cash and a chance to see the world—or at least to buy a car.

Before long, Scheper-Hughes had immersed herself in an underworld of surgeons, criminals and those eager to buy or sell whatever body parts could be spared. In Brazil, Africa and Moldova, newspapers advertised the sale and solicitation of human body parts while brokers trolled the streets with $100 bills, easily recruiting young sellers. In Istanbul, Scheper-Hughes posed as an organ buyer and talked one would-be seller down to $3,000 for his “best kidney.” In

But not all organs flowed from poor countries to rich ones; Americans, for example, were both buyers and sellers in this global market. A Kentucky woman once contacted Scheper-Hughes looking to sell her kidney or part of her liver so that she could buy some desperately needed dentures. And a Brooklyn dialysis patient purchased his kidney from Nick Rosen, an Israeli man who wanted to visit America.

Unlike some organ sellers, who told of dingy basement hospitals with less equipment than a spartan kitchen, Rosen found an organ broker through a local paper in Tel Aviv who arranged to have the transplant done at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. An amateur filmmaker, Rosen documented a portion of his odyssey on camera and sent the film to Scheper-Hughes, whose research he had read about online. The video excerpt that NEWSWEEK viewed shows Rosen meeting his broker and buyer in a New York coffee shop where they haggle over price, then entering Mount Sinai and talking with surgeons—one of whom asks him to put the camera away. Finally, after displaying his post-surgery scars for the camera, Rosen is seen rolling across a hotel bed covered in $20 bills; he says he was paid $15,000. (Brokers, on the other hand, typically net around $50,000 per transplant, after travel and other expenses. In America, some insurance plans will cover at least a portion of the donor’s medical expenses.)

The money changed hands outside the hospital’s corridors, and Rosen says that he deliberately misled the Mount Sinai doctors, but that no one there challenged him. “One hospital in Maryland screened us out,” he says. Tom Diflo, a transplant surgeon at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, points out that many would-be donors do not pass the psychological screening, and that attempting to film the event would probably have set off an alarm bell or two. “But the doctors at Mount Sinai were not very curious about me,” Rosen says. “We told them I was a close friend of the guy who I sold my kidney to, and that I was donating altruistically, and that was pretty much the end of it.” Citing privacy laws, Mount Sinai officials declined to comment on the details of Rosen’s case. But spokesperson Ian Michaels says that the hospital’s screening process is rigorous and comprehensive, and assesses each donor’s motivation. “All donors are clearly advised that it is against the law to receive money or gifts for being an organ donor,” he says. “The pretransplant evaluation may not detect premeditated and skillful attempts to subvert and defraud the evaluation process.”

Because many people do donate organs out of kindness, altruism provides an easy cover for those seeking to profit. And U.S. laws can be easy to circumvent, especially for foreign patients who may pay cash and are often gone in the space of a day. Diflo, who has worked in numerous transplant wards over the past two decades, says that while they are in the minority, hospitals that perform illegal transplants certainly exist in the United States. “There are a couple places around that have reputations for doing transplants with paid donors, and then some hospitals that have a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,” he says. “It’s definitely happening, but it’s difficult to ferret out.”

Diflo became an outspoken advocate for reform several years ago, when he discovered that, rather than risk dying on the U.S. wait list, many of his wealthier dialysis patients had their transplants done in China. There they could purchase the kidneys of executed prisoners. In India, Lawrence Cohen, another UC Berkeley anthropologist, found that women were being forced by their husbands to sell organs to foreign buyers in order to contribute to the family’s income, or to provide for the dowry of a daughter. But while the WHO estimates that organ-trafficking networks are widespread and growing, it says that reliable data are almost impossible to come by. “Nancy has done truly courageous work, literally risking her life to expose these networks,” says Delmonico. “But anecdotes are impossible to quantify.”

Scheper-Hughes acknowledges that in gathering these anecdotes she has frequently bumped up against the ethical boundaries of her own profession. While UC Berkeley (which funds most of her work) granted special permission for her to go undercover, she still takes heat from colleagues: misrepresenting oneself to research subjects violates a cardinal rule of academic research. “I expect my methods to be met with criticism,” she says. “But being an anthropologist should not mean being a bystander to crimes against the vulnerable.”

While Rosen has fared well since the surgery—he recovered quickly, used the money to travel and stays in touch with his kidney recipient via Facebook—most of the donors Scheper-Hughes and her colleagues have spoken with are not so lucky. Studies show that the health risks posed by donating a kidney are negligible, but those studies were all done in developed countries. “Recovery from surgery is much more difficult when you don’t have clean water or decent food,” says Scheper-Hughes. And research on the long-term effects of organ donation—in any country—is all but nonexistent.

Last may, Scheper-Hughes once again found herself sitting across from a group of transplant surgeons. This time they were not as incredulous. More than 100 of them had come from around the world to Istanbul for a global conference on organ trafficking. Together, they wrote and signed the Declaration of Istanbul, an international agreement vowing to stop the commodification of human organs. But unless their document is followed by action, it will be no match for the thriving organ market. Even as illegal trade is exposed, a roster of Web sites promising to match desperate dialysis patients with altruistic strangers continues to proliferate unchecked. These sites have some surgeons worried. “We have no way to tell if money is changing hands or not,” says Diflo. “People who need transplants end up trying to sell themselves to potential donors, saying, ‘I have a nice family, I go to church,’ etc. Is that really how we want to allocate organs?”

Maybe not. But in the United States, the average wait time for a kidney is expected to increase to 10 years by 2010. Most dialysis patients die in half that time, and the desperate don’t always play by the rules.

http://www.newsweek.com/id/178873

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http://www.newsweek.com/id/137544?tid=relatedcl

Organ Brokers

http://www.socyberty.com/Crime/Organ-Brokers.470441


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