Organ transplants: no deal for doctors

2011-01-29 00:00

DESPITE negotiations lasting three hours between legal teams of the state and four doctors, no finality could be reached in Durban yesterday regarding the way forward in an organ trafficking case.

John Robbs, Ariff Haffejee (both of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s medical school), Neil Christopher and Mahadev Naidoo are charged with performing 109 allegedly illegal kidney transplants at St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban.

Melanie Azor and Lindy Dickson, who worked at the hospital when the transplants were performed between 2001 and 2003, are standing trial with them.

These are the only accused still remaining after the Netcare hospital group, respected kidney specialist Jeffrey Kallmeyer and Sam Ziegler, who acted as interpreter for the organ syndicate, reached plea agreements with the state.

Netcare’s KwaZulu-Natal subsidiary was fined R4 million, Kallmeyer R150 000 because of his involvement in 90 of the operations, and Ziegler R50 000.

After the negotiations advocate Robin Palmer, on behalf of the state, told magistrate Quim de Freitas in the Durban Commercial Court that the discussions could not be concluded.

Replying to a question from De Freitas, Palmer also said “a new charge sheet may be drawn up later depending on the outcome of the discussions”.

His statement creates the impression that a possible settlement cannot yet be entirely ruled out.

Failing that, the trial will continue for the six accused, Palmer indicated earlier.

The state alleges that Israeli patients underwent kidney transplants in St Augustine’s Hospital after a syndicate led by Ilan Perry had recruited and paid donors from among poor communities in Israel, Romania and Brazil.

In terms of South Africa’s Human Tissue Act it is illegal to pay for the organs of living donors. The state also alleges that donors and recipients falsely claimed to be related.

De Freitas postponed the case to February 23.

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