Country’s kidney transplant detentions gets international exposure

The New York Times Sunday linked kidney transplants in Costa Rica with a ring of Israelis who were offering that kind of operation to their fellow citizens.

In the past news stories here concentrated on the kidney recipients from the United States. In a news story in June 2013, A.M. Costa Rica reported on a U.S. citizen who died after receiving a kidney transplant here at the hands of Francisco Mora Palma, chief of nephrology at Hospital Calderón Guardia. The man who received the transplant was overweight, aging, in ill health and an unlikely candidate in the United States. Those conditions are believed to have contributed to his death.

The Times explained that there are religious problems with obtaining transplants in Israel, so those who have the money look elsewhere. The Times said that Israelis were disproportionately involved as recipients.

Mora, in an Internet promotion, said he had done 550 kidney transplants. The Times addresses about 11. Such transplants are illegal in many countries, including Costa Rica., if there is payment involved.

The Times said that a local prosecutor said that charges are expected against Mora and three other physicians this month. Also facing a charge will be Dimosthenis  Katsigiannis, the former operator of a pizza outlet near Hospital Calderón Guardia who is accused of  spotting kidney donors for transplant, said the newspaper. The Times said it had access to confidential court documents.

Prosecutors and investigators acted against organ transplants here after a report in a Mexican newspaper. The Times also credited a nurse at Hosptial Calderón Guardia who noted that equipment was being used at Hospital Hotel La Católica. Hospital Clinica Biblica also was the site of some transplants, it said.

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. The problem in Costa Rica is that there is not an efficient system helping those who need transplants.

The Times interviewed briefly a young Costa Rican couple who flew to Israel so the woman could donate a kidney. They were rejected by Israeli immigration and had to return home. The Times called them protected witnesses.

The newspaper also said that prosecutors are treating donors as victims in the case. In most cases, donors had signed documents that said they were surrendering a kidney for no compensation and for altruistic reasons.

Although the facts of the cases here are well known, local officials are likely to react after the article in the prestigious newspaper.

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