Read full article: http://www.thelocal.es/20140312/police-thwart-first-illegal-organ-sale-in-spain
Police have arrested five people in Spain after a wealthy Lebanese man in need of a liver offered up to €40,000 ($55,000) to whoever was willing to undergo an illegal organ transplant.
According to the police report, the suspects were caught while they were trying their luck with impoverished immigrants in Spain's eastern region of Valencia.
An NGO worker working with migrants in the region was the one who took the matter to local police.
The Lebanese man and his four associates had already covered the cost of several candidates’ medical check-ups to determine their organ compatibility.
According to several Spanish media sources, this was the first attempt to carry out an unregulated organ transplant on Spanish soil.
Comment by Dr. Rafael Matesanz
- No country can be considered 100% free from attempts of organ trafficking
- Adequate legislation and adequate filters can perfectly avoid the possibility of illegal transplants.
The cooperation with other institutions, like police, judges and mass media, is essential
- Only those countries which do not investigate these cases, and do not have these mechanisms in place, can assure that they are “impossible”.
Dr. Rafael Matesanz
Organización Nacional de Trasplantes
Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equity
Description remarks by Dr. Beatriz Dominguez Gil (below) and comment by Dr. Rafael Matesanz (left column - under the article )
A rich Lebanese patient in need for a liver transplant decided to come to Spain to be transplanted. He tried to get a live liver donor in the region of Valencia, and contacted 4 intermediaries to do so. He offered 40,000 € to the potential donor. Nine persons (most immigrant workers, illegal and with no resources) were contacted by these intermediaries and studied for assessing their suitability as liver donors in a private clinic in Valencia. The costs of the testing were covered by the recipient. Finally, one of this immigrant workers was selected - he was a Romanian.
The patient showed up in a Spanish transplant center with his potential live organ ‘donor’, pretending to have a close relationship with him. The Romanian was presented as the boyfriend of the recipient’s niece. The case was then evaluated according to what established by the Spanish Law (which requires an independent medical, psychological and social assessment of the donor by a doctor independent of the transplant team, then the evaluation of the procedure by an Ethics Committee and, finally, the confirmation of the donation of the organ by the prospective donor before the judge and all professionals involved in the evaluation and selection of the donor and in the recovery and transplantation). The first assessment of the donor along this process led to immediately put into question the relationship between the potential donor and the recipient, as well as the real motivations of the prospective donor. The case was consequently disregarded by the transplant center. This makes evident the importance of the donor advocate in the evaluation of the live organ donor.
Later on, the patient brought his son from Lebanon as a second potential organ donor. The evaluation went through the same procedure described above and was positively informed by the Ethics Committee, and the donation confirmed before the judge. Please note that the relationship between the donor and the recipient was checked with the Lebanese Consulate by the transplant team before the transplant procedure took place. The transplant took place, went well and the patient went back to Lebanon with plans to come back to the transplant center for regular medical controls.
In parallel, one of the immigrant workers who was studied as a potential donor and disregarded because she happened to be pregnant denounced the case through an NGO. The police initiated a thorough investigation,in close cooperation with the Spanish National Transplant Organization (ONT), which revealed the details described above.
When the patient came from Lebanon to Spain for a routine medical checkup at the transplant center, he was arrested, along with the 4 intermediaries. The reason, an attempt of organ trafficking. Second lesson, it is essential an effective law and enforcement mechanisms to punish the perpetrators.
In conclusion, no country is safe from this activity. The systems have to ensure an in depth evaluation of the live organ donor, with special emphasis in cases where the donor/recipient are foreigners, sincefamily relationships and motivations are harder to assess. This may prevent the exploitation of the vulnerable and organ trafficking. Effective laws and enforcement mechanisms are essential to ensure the prosecution of the perpetrators, even when the crime consists of an attempt, as it is the case just presented - the first attempt of organ trafficking identified in Spain.
Beatriz Domínguez-Gil, MD, PhD
Organización Nacional de Trasplantes