From: "Reason" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> anyone care to give an analysis on why this
> one is so much more resistant to its antimemes than, say, the kidney
> extraction story?
You mean this story?:
How big business bankrolls the sick trade in human body parts
Organs for sale - Israeli patients pay £100,000 a time for illegal
transplants in Istanbul
By Sue Lloyd-Roberts in Chisinau, Moldova
07 July 2001
In Europe's poorest country a predatory trade in body parts is
flourishing paid for in part by Israeli health insurance companies
in order to feed the surging demand for transplant organs.
The sale of body parts is illegal in every country except China and
Iran. But an investigation reveals that the production line starts in
Europe's most impoverished country, the republic of Moldova, and ends
up in Israel, via Turkey.
One of the victims of this cruel trade, called Sergei, described how
an agent in the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, tricked him into
surrendering a kidney two years ago, after luring him to Turkey with
the promise of a job.
When the job failed to materialise, the agent, Nina Scobiola, said
Sergei would have to sell blood to raise the bus fare back home. She
guided him to a private hospital on the outskirts of Istanbul and a
jab in the arm followed. "My whole body was aching," he said, when he
came round. "I couldn't get up. I had a feeling that something was
missing inside me."
As the anaesthetic wore off, Sergei said, the agent simply walked
into the hospital room and said: "We've taken a kidney. There's
nothing you can do. I'll give you £1,800 for it. Otherwise, get
yourself out of your predicament on your own."
Sergei took the money and returned to Moldova. "Six months later, all
I had left to remind me was a stamp in my passport and a pain in my
The racket run by Ms Scobiola in Istanbul and a second Nina in the
village of Mingir is well known to the Moldovan police, and has left
many young men in the region with only one kidney. Most sell them
voluntarily. "I am ashamed that we are doing this. We are a disgrace
to our country but there is no other way out of the situation," said
one villager, Vladimir, who willingly sold his kidney.
The situation in post-Soviet Moldova, a country squashed between
Romania and Ukraine, is one of no jobs and no prospects. If a young
man wants to marry or buy a house he has only one asset of commercial
value to the world his body parts.
Veleriu Galit, of Moldova's Department of Organised Crime, said
the "Two Ninas", as they are called, have the trade sewn up. One
procures the men in Moldovan villages. Then she calls Ms Scobiola in
Turkey. "Once Scobiola gives the go-ahead, Nina puts them on a bus to
Turkey where the operations are carried out," said Mr Galit. "The
doctors are Turkish. The recipients are mainly Israeli."
The donors all remember the doctor who carried out the operation.
Yusuf Somnez is a kidney surgeon, trained at the Istanbul University
Hospital, who darts from one private clinic to another as the police
close in. After a Turkish television documentary in 1997 exposed his
activities, the Istanbul Health Authority banned him for life from
working in the public health sector. To pre-empt him, they refuse to
license any private clinic in the city to carry out kidney transplant
operations. But Dr Somnez keeps going.
Ayan Mimaroglu, of the Turkish fraud squad, said the doctor was a
shrewd operator. "He gets the donors to sign papers saying that they
are donating their organs voluntarily." He is ideally situated in
Istanbul, with an infinite supply of desperately poor, potential
donors in impoverished Moldova to the north and a queue of
desperately ill kidney patients in wealthy Israel, to the south-east.
One donor said he overheard a nurse saying 35 Israelis were waiting
in Istanbul for a new kidney from Dr Somnez. Each one was being
Professor Jonathan Halevy, director of the Israeli Transplant Centre
in Tel Aviv, said he was embarrassed that his compatriots had created
this production line. Israel has a donor problem, he said, as few
carry donor cards, owing to "a deep-seated belief among most Israelis
that they must go whole to the grave".
Mike Levinsky was one of the first to go to Istanbul to be operated
on by Dr Somnez. "I was aware that to pay for a kidney transplant is
illegal everywhere," he said. He did not meet the donor, even though
he was in the adjacent room at the hospital. Was he curious about the
man whose part he has inside him? "No."
Israeli insurance companies, known as Sick Funds, are partly financed
by the government. As a result, public money is helping to finance
illegal kidney transplants abroad. Professor Halevy admitted this. "I
can't deny it and I condemn it," he said. "But the Sick Funds are
facing an enrolee who says: 'I have no chance of a transplant in
Israel at least pay me what you would have paid my hospital in
Israel.' They give him the money, usually about £25,000, towards
buying a new kidney."
The sale of body parts remains anathema to most medical
establishments, although some doctors say that with 5,000 patients
waiting for kidney transplants in the UK, the idea should be
Back in Moldova, the donors are not reconciled to their loss. "What
can I say to the Israeli who got my kidney?" Sergei said. "Even
though they got it through deceit, what is done is done. Let him be
healthy, but let it be on his conscience."
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