Detained surgeon reports he did 550 transplants

A surgeon who specializes in kidney transplants says in Internet promotions that he has done 550 of these life-saving procedures.

He is Francisco Mora Palma, chief of nephrology at Hospital Calderón Guardia. He was detained Tuesday morning at his office on allegations that he was engaged in the illegal trafficking in organs.

At least one of Mora’s operations did not turn out well. An overweight and elderly U.S. citizen underwent a kidney transplant last November at the hands of Mora. The procedure took place at the private Hospital Hotel La Católica in Guadalupe. The man at the time told friends here that he could not get a transplant in the United States because physicians there rejected him because of his weight and age, more than 80 years. He received the kidney of a younger friend, he reported.

The wealthy U.S. citizen has a long association with Costa Rica, but he said he found out about a package deal offered by the hospital via an Internet search. He said at the time he spent upwards of $150,000.

There is an interview with Mora on YouTube HERE where he speaks about his long history with kidney transplants. Mora is reported to have done nearly all his private practice transplants at La Católica.

After the surgery, the U.S. citizen returned to his home there and immediately was put in intensive care by his own physicians, who expressed shock that he had undergone such an operation. He died several weeks later.

When he was detained Tuesday, Mora was handcuffed with his hands behind his back and led to detention with a garment thrown over his head in much the same way that robbers and other street crooks are treated. Investigators said that a policeman also was detained because he had made arrangements for transplant operations.

Agents also confiscated the physician’s files at La Católica.

Prosecutors here were responding to a report in a Mexican newspaper that said Costa Rica was a center for organ trafficking.

The actual violation that prosecutors allege is a little murky. A law that received final approval last Oct. 8 criminalizes the possession, transport, sale or purchase of organs in an illicit way.

Another section of the law, No. 9095, criminalizes the illicit extraction of organs. At the time that was interpreted to be extraction against the will of the person who had the organ.

So the law does not seem to forbid the sale or transactions in organs but only those of an undefined illicit nature. There has been no description of Mora being involved in anything illicit.

The Ministerio de Salud filed a complaint against organ transplants on the heels of the Mexican news report. Costa Rican law also says that transplants have to be done in accord with health ministry policies.

Costa Rica Report said last October than a 1994 law gives the ministry this power but that the country still lacks a database of donors and a medical protocol for the procedure. “Patients waiting for organ transplants must endure long waits and painful treatments,” it said.

A.M. Costa Rica reported in February that there were only 454 transplants in public hospitals in 2012 and half of them were cornea replacements for the eyes. There were only 115 kidney transplants, five liver transplants and 55 bone marrow transplants. The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social said that 60 percent of the procedures were done at Hospital México.

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