Transplant doctor drowns

2013-12-27 00:00

ONE of the four top Durban surgeons involved in the “illegal” kidney transplant scandal has died while on holiday in the Seychelles.

Specialist surgeon Mahadev Naidoo (48) was enjoying a beach holiday with his wife, specialist radiologist Sharvani Pillay, and their two daughters, Sonali and Nilashri, when he died on Sunday after swimming with his older daughter, according to his father-in-law T.S. Pillay.

“We do not know exactly what happened,” said Pillay. “There was some difficulty in the water and help was called for.

“He was pulled out of the water — at that stage he was still alive.”

Naidoo appears to have lost consciousness while on the beach and his wife applied mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but to no avail.

“There has been a post-mortem,” said Pillay. “But we don’t know the details.”

For the last few years, according to Pillay, Naidoo had always made sure that he and his family got an “adequate holiday”.

“He never stays in Durban.”

Pillay said his son-in-law was in good health apart from slight hypertension “but it was well under control”.

The case against Naidoo, Dr Neil Christopher (63), Professor Ariff Haffejee (67) and Professor John Robbs (70) was thrown out of court on December 15, 2012.

They were given a permanent stay of prosecution and the state was ordered to pay costs.

The four men were charged with fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, and contraventions of the Human Tissues Act for performing illegal transplant operations at Netcare’s St Augustine’s Hospital in Glenwood between 2000 and 2003.

They performed the transplant operations on Israeli patients who purchased “donor” kidneys from Israeli, Romanian and Brazilian citizens and then came to South Africa for the transplant operations, which took place at Netcare hospitals as well Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town and Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg.

This “transplant tourism” was facilitated by Israeli organ broker Ilan Perry.

The four surgeons consistently refused to make individual plea bargains, protested their innocence and said they repeatedly questioned Netcare as to the legality of the transplants.

In November 2010, Netcare KwaZulu-Natal pleaded guilty to similar charges and subsequently paid a R4 million fine and agreed to a R3,8 million confiscation order.

Asked if the stress of the kidney transplant scandal could have been a factor in his son-in-law’s death, Pillay said “No, that was all sorted out”.

However in an interview with the Medical Chronicle earlier this year Naidoo said he not been “immune to health problems” as a result of the pressure.

“In a case like this, we are all bound to have some stress that will have a permanent impact on our health.”

Naidoo said that when “this whole thing reared its head, I was just going into practice, beginning my career in the private sector at a Netcare hospital. So it was quite difficult at that time. But with the support of my colleagues and friends, I managed to pull through.”

In the same article Robb, a specialist vascular surgeon, spoke of the “huge impact” the long saga had had on his health.

“I have developed fairly significant cardiac problems as a result of the stress,” saying it also had a “massive” impact on his family as well as his academic career.

Haffejee also said the matter had severely impacted his health and brought his academic career to a “virtual halt”.

Naidoo’s body wwas flown home via Dubai and was expected to arrive in Durban yesterday. The funeral will take place at the Clare Estate Crematorium today from 2 pm.

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