First human tissue conviction

Netcare KwaZulu (NKZ) also known as St Augustine's could be the first hospital in the world to be convicted on charges related to human tissue, police said.

This was after NKZ pleaded guilty and received a fine to illegal kidney transplants.

"It has emerged that the conviction of a hospital in respect of human tissue cases such as this one may be the first conviction in the world," said national police spokesman Colonel Vishnu Naidoo in a statement.

Netcare KwaZulu was fined R4 million by the Commercial Crimes Court after it pleaded guilty to charges of illegal kidney transplants at St Augustine's Hospital in Durban.

Fruitful project

"This project was a long, intricate, complex but fruitful one. It was investigated by Warrant Officer K G Chetty and led by Captain Louis Helberg since 2003."

Naidoo said law enforcement agencies around the world were starting to take the crime seriously.

"The SAPS has been to the United Nations and other conferences around the world to share knowledge and best practices to help our counterparts to deal with these types of crimes effectively."

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

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

The court granted a R3.8 million confiscation order against the company in light of the profit made from the transplants.

The charges

The charges relate to more than a hundred operations at the hospital between 2001 and 2003 in which people, mainly Brazilians, were paid as little as R42,000 to donate their kidneys to Israeli patients.

Naidoo said the sentence included an accumulative fine of R4 million and a confiscation order of R3.8 million.

He said summonses were served to four surgeons, a doctor, two employees of Netcare and one translator who were connected to the case.

The people were due to appear in the Durban Regional Court on 23 November 2010.

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

Netcare announced that charges against Netcare Limited and Friedland had been unconditionally withdrawn.

The statement

The statement said Netcare, Netcare Kwa-Zulu Proprietary Limited (NKZ) and Friedland, together with other persons, were charged with a number of offences arising out of organ transplants performed by several specialist doctors at the Netcare St Augustine's Hospital.

"NKZ has entered into an agreement with the State in terms of which it has pleaded guilty to certain offences."

The chairman of the board of directors of Netcare, Jerry Vilakazi, said it became evident to Netcare that certain employees of NKZ must have been aware that payment must have been made to donors for their kidneys - and that certain kidney donors were minors when the kidneys were removed.

Friedland said in the statement that none of the employees who had participated in the criminal activities were still in the employ of Netcare or NKZ.

Friedland said not only did the employees contravene the law but they had also disregarded Netcare's own internal policies.

He said policies stipulated that Ministerial permission in cases of transplants between non-related persons was to be obtained and that donations could only be done for humane purposes.

Friedland also said that he had acceded to the Board's request not to seek legal redress against those responsible for wrongfully instigating criminal proceedings against him.

(Sapa, November 2010)

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
33% - 9321 votes
67% - 18661 votes