Kidney trial to go ahead

2010-09-17 00:00

THE Netcare hospital group, its CEO and five surgeons are among the high-level executives due to stand trial in connection with alleged illegal organ transplants from which the group earned more than R22 million.

This week the Hawks started issuing summonses and indictments relating to 109 kidney transplants performed at St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban between 2001 and 2003.

In the indictment served on Netcare on Wednesday, the state charges that Israeli patients paid up to $120 000 (about R852 000) for kidneys harvested from living donors recruited in, among other places, Romania and Brazil.

Donors apparently received an average of $6 000 (about R42 600).

This step comes after similar charges brought by the state in 2006 against two Netcare employees at St Augustine’s and a group of surgeons were provisionally withdrawn while the police continued their investigation.

Instead of only a few employees, the Netcare group as a whole and St Augustine’s Hospital are now being charged, as is Dr Richard Friedland, the group’s CEO, in his personal capacity.

According to the indictment, St Augustine Hospital’s Lindy Dickson and Melanie Azor, and surgeon-professors Ariff Haffejee and John Robbs, doctors Jeff Kallmeyer and Neil Christopher, and Mahadev Naidoo will also be prosecuted. Samuel Ziegler, an alleged agent of the syndicate, is also being charged.

They have been summonsed to appear in the Durban commercial court on November 23, but the case will be heard in the high court at a later stage.

The charges include fraud and contraventions of the Human Tissues Act and the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

The state is charging that it was claimed that the donors and recipients are related and that the donors were not paid for their organs.

Netcare’s national transplant co-ordinator at the time, Belinda Rossi, who went to investigate the possibility of transplants for Israelis, and alleged “organ broker” Ilan Perry, with whom an agreement was apparently later reached to recruit donors and recipients, are among the witnesses for the state.

Netcare’s board of directors said in a statement they had the allegations investigated by independent lawyers and an advocate.

According to the legal counsel they received, neither Friedland nor the group did anything wrong.

The hospital group expressed its disappointment that “after several years of co-operating fully with the South African Police Service” the prosecuting authority “has seen it fit to bring charges against it”.

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