New twist in ‘kidneygate’ case

2012-09-01 18:14

Netcare’s illegal organ transplant teams harvested kidneys from more than 90 impoverished Brazilian donors without performing proper medical and psychological “work-ups”.

This and other new allegations against the last six accused in the marathon “kidneygate” case are contained in documents submitted to the Durban High Court.

The state is opposing two applications for a permanent stay of prosecution.

Operating from Durban’s St Augustine’s Hospital, the syndicate was so casual in the way it handled the donors that even its own members suggested having the donors evaluated in Israel before they were brought to South Africa to avoid detection, the papers allege.

In their application for a permanent stay of prosecution, surgeons John Robbs, Ariff Haffejee, Neil Christopher and Mahadev Naidoo, who performed the transplants, have claimed malicious and selective prosecution.

They say doctors who performed illegal transplants for Netcare in Cape Town and Joburg have not yet been charged.

Former transplant unit staffers Lindy Dickson and Melanie Azor have made the same claims in a separate application and argue that the state had delayed the case for eight years.

They also argue that it was Netcare – which paid a R7-million fine after admitting guilt – that set up the scam with Israeli organ broker Ilan Perry and misled transplant teams into believing all was above board.

The prosecution claims all participants in the illegal operation were aware of what was going on.

A March 2002 letter from nephrologist Jeff Kallmeyer, who fled the country but later pleaded guilty, to Perry states there was “pressure at a governmental level” over the operations, and they needed to be “particularly careful and circumspect in the future”.

Kallmeyer told Perry to ensure all donors signed affidavits stating they were related to the recipients.

They also had to give written guarantees stating they had not been paid for the illegal transplants, which took place between 2001 and October 2003.

These would have to be accompanied by written permission from the Israeli interior ministry.

“No mention of money should be made by the donor or recipient. This will also have to be in writing,” he wrote.

Kallmeyer criticised the quality of the work-ups being done on the donors, the bulk of whom were recruited by the syndicate’s agents in Brazil’s poorest slums.

“It has been suggested the donors should be worked up in Israel and only the final assessment ... should be done in South Africa,” he wrote.

An internal Netcare audit of its overseas transplant programme contained in the papers shows that in Durban, only 10 of 104 foreign donors had medical evaluation reports.

Only two donors had psychological evaluation reports, while none had submitted the required letters of acceptance.

According to the audit report, the level of compliance was far higher in Cape Town and Joburg.

The two applications will be heard together in the Durban High Court on November 23. Should they succeed, the six accused will be acquitted.

But if they fail, the matter will go to trial, which the state says could take six months.

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