Kidney transplant scandal spreads

2011-02-28 10:40

Cape Town - The furore over the controversial kidneys-for-cash operations in which poor people were paid to donate kidneys to wealthy overseas clients, has spread to the Western Cape and Gauteng.

The first operations to harvest kidneys from poor Brazilians for wealthy Israelis were apparently carried out in Cape Town hospitals.

Western Cape health MEC Theunis Botha told reporters on Sunday that he would meet with his management team on Monday to discuss the Netcare kidney debacle and the new twist of alleged involvement of Western Cape hospitals.


An investigation would now be launched into the latest claims, which place two Cape Town hospitals - Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital and the Netcare private academic hospital at Groote Schuur - right in the middle of the international web of kidney trading.

Netcare hospital group was plunged into controversy last year when it emerged that illegal kidney transplants had been conducted at its hospitals.

Four Durban surgeons appeared in the Durban Commercial Crimes Court last week on charges of fraud and the illegal trade in human tissue, which related to illegal kidney transplant operations at St Augustines Hospital.

According to the Star, one of the surgeons, Professor John Robbs, claimed that the Durban surgeons were being made scapegoats while surgeons from Johannesburg and Cape Town were not being prosecuted.

Private sector

Patients were apparently not satisfied with hospital facilities during the very first operations at the Netcare private academic hospital at Groote Schuur, after which they were apparently moved to Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital. Afterwards operations were apparently extended to Johannesburg and Durban hospitals.

Netcare meanwhile issued a statement on Saturday in which it referred to reports about the cross-border kidney operations that were performed between 2001 and 2003 at three Netcare hospitals in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, as well as certain state hospitals in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The National Prosecuting Authority on Saturday requested that Netcare no longer give comment to the media and it decided to comply.

Botha said on Sunday that no state hospitals in the Western Cape were involved, but that the Netcare private section of the Groote Schuur hospital complex was involved.

Surgical safaris

The Western Cape is known worldwide for surgical safaris, which are apparently sold as popular tourist packages.

"We have some of the world's best physicians here and our region is a popular health destination. There is much responsibility that comes with this," said Botha. "At the end of the day it is about the safety of patients for us and with that also ethical integrity."

According to Netcare's statement, it is working closely with the investigating team and prosecuting authority. Netcare stopped its independent investigation into cross-border transplants in 2004 after being requested to do so by the investigative and prosecuting team.

The Netcare board had requested an investigation into the operations "which were performed at several Netcare hospitals" but was told that it could disadvantage the police investigation. According to Netcare, police had taken their files and documents in 2003 and had still not returned them.

"Netcare is stunned that illegal operations were performed at its facilities and will not support any of the actions of its staff if they are found to be illegal," read the statement.


  • Kaapie - 2011-02-28 10:57

    Greedy docs and hospitals. Not enough that they fleece the members of medical aids

  • Cynical Sci - 2011-02-28 11:10

    There's a movie called "Pretty Dirty Things" relating to similar subject matter. It is well worth the watch.

  • Cynical Sci - 2011-02-28 11:11

    There's a movie called "Pretty Dirty Things" relating to similar subject matter. It is well worth the watch.

  • JiveTalking - 2011-02-28 11:36

    Point to ponder:- if you donated your kidney to some one, they call you a saint. Sell it to some one and its a scandal. The surgical procedure is still the same. Costs are exactly the same, except for a holiday thrown in to recouperate. With the rand so favourable, tourism is booming. people go for gender re- assignmnet to Singapore.

      Allin - 2011-02-28 11:51

      I also fai to see what the issue is.

      Madelane - 2011-02-28 12:31

      Its called morals and ethics but if it requires explaining then you are not likely to get it anyway.

      Lungile - 2011-02-28 12:52

      There are thousands of people who have died in India due to this practise. I believe many have died even hear in South Africa, not everybody is willing to sell their kidney. After all no one cares about the aftrecare of the person who has sold the kidney, the interest is the organ and money, then i'ts go home the family will take care of you, and that is if you even have one.

  • Pikkie - 2011-02-28 11:43

    Botha has got it wrong. it has nothing to do with our best physicians but rather their greed and corruption. That is why SA is involved.

      allie - 2011-02-28 11:52

      There`s vacancies at the Polls Moore clinic.24/7 jobs.

  • dvdb27 - 2011-02-28 11:48

    Didn't Dr. Mantombazana 'Manto' Edmie Tshabalala-Msimang initiate this new craze?

  • nonduplume - 2011-02-28 11:49

    And the CEO of Netcare has offered to assist with the NHI - not bloody likely as he and his orgnaisation prove once again that they are a bunch of unethical corrupt idiots. I wonder how they thought after a plea bargain that the rot of this whole organisation would not come out.

  • Sanity_Check - 2011-02-28 11:52

    Netcare hospitals make a killing...excuse the pan!!

  • gillian.hanna2 - 2011-02-28 12:05

    why would it be illegal if all parties concerned are aware of whats happening... the poor need the money, the rich need the kidney and the surgeon is the middle man ... i suppose the poor could go direct and cut out the middleman (like outsurance) but who the hell would do the transaction!!!!! just my own humble opinion....

      squeegeepilot - 2011-02-28 12:31

      Who do you think will protect the best interests of the poor person? Do you think that we all have spare parts that can become commodities? Do you think that if this practice is allowed even more greedy (if that is possible) people will enter the market and abuse people into parting with their body parts?

      sbouttell - 2011-02-28 12:41

      It's called exploitation. The same reason we can't prostitute our children or make them work in sweat shops. As said by another commentor above, If you need the moral or ethical position to be explained, there is clearly a problem.

      Deon - 2011-02-28 13:08

      sbouttell - Our kids do not consent to prostitution. The seller of organs does. Big difference. Like someone on the blog said earlier, if you donate a kidney while you are alive, you are a hero. If you sell it, you're a villain.??????????

      sbouttell - 2011-02-28 13:17

      @ Deon. CONSENT is not the same thing at all, as preying on a person who would do ANYTHING to feed his children. You can paint it any colour you want with words, but the reality is that it is still exploitation.

      Ryanbrew - 2011-02-28 14:16

      @sbouttell - I agree with you, and if it starts with Kidneys, what is next, part of your liver, a lung.... next thing people will sell off their loved ones organs when they pass away.... and that in turn will lead to other issues, like killing people just for their organs...

      Deon - 2011-02-28 15:30

      @sbouttell. I agree. I had it wrong. The line is still a bit vague though. What if I, a priveleged man, decide to sell my kidney? You are right, but it still is not a clear cut case.

      FP NTULI - 2011-04-13 13:25

      i agree with u gillian da poor see da opportunity to get money and they use it thrs nothing unethical about dat, its a person choice to sell her parts ppl must stop talking on behalf of da "poorer" . if the ppl selling da organs wr forced to they shud have report it to da police to show dat they are against

      FP NTULI - 2011-04-13 13:25

      i agree with u gillian da poor see da opportunity to get money and they use it thrs nothing unethical about dat, its a person choice to sell her parts ppl must stop talking on behalf of da "poorer" . if the ppl selling da organs wr forced to they shud have report it to da police to show dat they are against

  • Otello - 2011-02-28 12:25

    The practice of organ harvesting has been going on overseas for decades. Especially in South America where street children disappear only to be discovered later dumped dead without organs. How much does one get payed for a kidney? The agent, the doctors, it must all add up to a huge amount.

      sbouttell - 2011-02-28 12:38

      Truth spoken.

      Deon - 2011-02-28 13:09

      That is organ harvesting, as opposed to marketing/selling, your own out of your own free will.

  • Thor - 2011-02-28 12:36

    Its not as sinmple as some of you guys make it out to be. It not just another buy sell transaction between people agreeing a price. I'm a 100% for the free market but when should the free market allow explotation in this manner.

  • richard.mcadam - 2011-02-28 12:39

    "stunned"... right

      sbouttell - 2011-02-28 12:49

      Hmmm. Like you, I too doubt the honesty of the comment.

  • johnnydee - 2011-02-28 13:27

    This case highlights another issue: The lack of organ donors have reached epidemic proportions-patients awaiting organ transplants have become increasingly desperate, even to the point where they are prepared to pay another human being for their organs. It is a sad situation and ceratinly one that warrants more attention from governments across the world !!!

  • phunkylizzyswan - 2011-02-28 14:40

    this have been going on since the early 2000s. Transaction been made in Israel, transplants being made here because its cheap and kidneys from Brazil. Read it all in this book: "illicit" by Moises Naim. He was the editor at Foreign Policy magazine.

  • jeronimo - 2011-02-28 14:41

    It's one of those situations where ONLY the rich get organs (sold by the poor). In any language, this would be unacceptable. And I have been through it - donated my kidney to a young guy who desperately needed help. Selling organs for the benefit of monied persons is WRONG!

      Deon - 2011-02-28 15:45

      If you are dying, and no organ donors are available, and some needy man wants to sell his organ , or even some rich person decides to sell his organs to save you, how can it be wrong?

  • PeppaM - 2011-02-28 15:33

    This is a shame. I am a SA citizen have a mediacal aid, a six year old daughter I am the sole care giver and for many years on a witing list and they do this??? Stop!!

  • pawsaw - 2011-02-28 16:51

    All those of you who are protesting about organ transplants fail to see that not just any kidney will fit someone who requires one. Doctors have to determine whether the donor kidney will be accepted by the recipient so they are of necessity involved and someone has to pay for their expertise. It isn't like just anybody from a poor area can be paid to donate his kidney if it isn't suitable. How many of you who are against this are in favour of IVF and GIFT and all the various means of bringing a life into the world because a couple can't conceive one themselves. This is no different in my opinion. Men donate sperm and women ovum and a surrogate is paid to carry the child, they can even pick and choose the genetics and sex if they want to. Ban these transplants and then you must illegalise abortion, and also many other procedures where doctors and those with money benefit from artificial means of creating, destroying or saving life.

      phunkylizzyswan - 2011-02-28 19:58

      So you are a supporter of the black market? While thousands of people have to wait years for a kidney, the rich European/Asian/American can jump the list and have one tomorrow. Just to hear that "sorry your kidney is not available anymore, because mr RichAss got the money." This is an illegal trade and ties very closely to human trafficking. People get desperate for money- from the poorest of the poor to the doctor that is over worked and underpaid. Most of these kidney come from other countries because of the risk of HIV/AIDS in our country is too high. Please there is a line between global economy and the black market economy and its Biiiiiiig! Supply and Demand. Economy 101. Besides this is not the first time top hospitals in SA are involved.

  • Fikile - 2011-02-28 17:08

    Iesh it can only be Israelis, they contaminate everything. They just to prolong their inevitable meeting with God.

  • Neville - 2011-02-28 19:26

    Jakaranda Hospital is the place to go. Save honest people. I donated a kidney there LEGALLY! We all need to support organ donor programs and get rid of this scumbags trading in organs at the cost of others.

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