Interview granted to El Pais
Q. Why do Israelis buy more organs for transplantation than other nations?
A. Because Israeli doctors and businessmen (and, more generally, Jewish doctors in places like South Africa) are heavily involved in the trade. Jewish religion forbids the donation of organs from a living person. So, in Israel, there is an enormous shortage of organs coupled with a sizable purchasing power. It is simply easier for an Israeli to find the right connections as all the roads lead to Tel-Aviv.
Q. Which countries provide the most donors?
A. In Europe: Moldova, Romania, Belarus, Ukraine, and, to some extent, Albania, Kosovo, and the former republics of Yugoslavia (Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia). In the Americas: Mexico, Haiti, Bolivia, Peru. In Asia: Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam. In Africa: Nigeria and the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. But there are donors who hail from rich countries as well: even from Israel. Still, demand gravitates to where supply is abundant and cheapest. In Moldova and Turkey donors sell a kidney for 200-500 euros; in Romania, Romas sell the same organs for double or triple that; while Israeli donors demand up to 10,000 USD per kidney. Normally, buyers prefer Moldovan or Turkish donors.
Q. How does a person how want to buy an organ find his way?
A. Predominantly through his doctors. In a few cases, he may know someone who has had a similar procedure. There are even Internet chat rooms, bulletin boards, and forums where such information is exchanged.
Q. How many organs have been bought in the last 2 years in the Middle East?
A. Arab patients in the Gulf States, Israelis, Egyptians, Iranians and Turks are the most numerous clients for such operations. But the surgical procedures themselves – harvesting the organs and then transplanting them – take place in other locations: Kosovo, Turkey, South Africa, Morocco. In total, about 12,000 organs are illegally traded every year the world over. Middle Eastern patients account for c. 2400 of these.
Q. Has the organ trade decreased or increased in the last 10 years in this area?
A. Increased dramatically as the business has been taken over by organized crime networks, aided and abetted by businessmen, financiers, hoteliers, truck operators, politicians, customs officers, local doctors, judges, police officers, and other officials, including representatives of the international community. Everyone has been corrupted by this scourge.
Q. How much can an organ cost? (let’s say a kidney)
A. The patient pays between 100-150,000 USD for a kidney transplant, including two weeks of convalescence in a five-star hotel for him and his immediate family.
Q. How much does the donor /seller receive?
A. Donors typically receive between 1000-2000 USD per kidney (about 1-2% of the cost to the recipient patient). Many donors in distress or those who want to emigrate sell organs for much less. Retinas, hearts, lungs, even bone marrow are also harvested and sold.
Q. How much does the doctor get? How much does the clinic and the stuff performing the operation? How much the mediators?
A. A typical operation involves 2 surgeons, 1 anaesthesiologist, 2 nurses, and 1 specialist (cardiologist, nephrologist, etc.) The surgeons receive 20,000 USD each; the specialist (who only monitors the patient and serves as a consultant) about 10,000 USD; the anaesthesiologist about 5000 USD; and each of the nurses about 2000 USD per operation. The rest goes to the long chain of mediators involved. The brokers pay off everyone else: truck drivers, receptionists at the hotels; customs officers; judges; policemen; and midlevel politicians.
Q. What is the role of Turkey in all this? Are Turkey’s clinics or doctors into this illegal business?
A. Turkey is a major junction in the trafficking of illicit organs. Turkish doctors work closely with Israeli and Jewish doctors the world over. They operate on both donors and recipients. They run illegal clinics all over the world, including in Turkey, where many transplants take place as part of a phenomenon of “transplant tourism” (mostly next to Antalian resorts). They recruit donors. The whole business would be unimaginable without the Turks. Recently, Israeli and Turkish networks have started to infiltrate Russia (with the help of the Russian mafia) and the Turkic former republics of the USSR as well as Kazakhstan and through these, China. This is the next “growth market”.