Transplant 'translator' gets fine

2010-11-23 14:34
Durban - Samuel Ziegler, one of eight people accused of having been involved in the illegal kidney transplants at Durban's St Augustine's Hospital, was given a five-year sentence in the Durban Commercial Crimes Court on Tuesday.

Ziegler's sentence was suspended. He was fined R50 000 to be paid no later than June 30 next year.

Earlier, he pleaded guilty to 50 charges against him.

The court heard that Ziegler knew what he did was illegal and that it had contravened the Human Tissues Act.

After hearing his affidavit, magistrate Kim De Freitas said he was satisfied that Ziegler's confession was just.

Minimal role

Ziegler admitted to being a translator for donors from Romania and Brazil.

Addressing reporters after the sentence, National Prosecutions spokesperson, advocate Mthunzi Mhaga said they were satisfied with Ziegler’s sentence "because his role in the illegal transplant syndicate had been minimal".

"He was just a facilitator of translation between the donors and the recipients. That is why we agree with the sentence."

Mhaga said Ziegler had no option but to plead guilty because of the "overwhelming evidence against him".

Summonses were served on four surgeons, a doctor, a translator and another two former Netcare employees in October.

This came after Netcare KwaZulu Natal (NKZ) was convicted on charges related to human tissue crimes recently.

NKZ pleaded guilty and received a R4m fine for doing illegal kidney transplants.

100 counts

It faced 100 counts on three main charges, including that the hospital's staff had illegally acquired kidneys between 2001 and November 2003.

It was also charged with performing transplants in which five of the suppliers were minors and receiving payments for the operations.

People - mainly Brazilians - were paid as little as R42 000 to donate their kidneys to Israeli patients.

Netcare's CEO Dr Richard Friedland was accused of being aware of the illegal transplants and of allowing them to continue.

But since NKZ pleaded guilty, charges against Friedland were unconditionally withdrawn.

None of those appearing in court on Tuesday were still employed by Netcare.

Others back in court on December 14

Other accused would appear in court on December 14. They were transplant unit staff Lindy Dickson and Melanie Azor.

Prominent kidney specialist Jeffrey Kallmeyer, specialist surgeons and two top academics, professors John Robbs and Ariff Haffejee, and doctors Neil Christopher and Mahadev Naidoo are co-accused.

The court proceedings were also attended by Health Professions Council of South Africa representatives.

The health practitioners’ body recently said it was shocked by the alleged involvement of doctors in the illegal kidney transplants.

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