Two Major Scandals This Week - One Major Issue
: Israeli physicians arrested on suspicion of egg trafficking Romania
Tel Aviv (YNet)
21st July 2009 -- Father, son who run in Sabyc Medical Center arrested for allegedly trafficking in human eggs, stem cells; both remanded for 29 days. Romanian authorities order two other Israeli doctors not to leave country, confiscate passports of five other Israelis involved Bucharest
man accused of trying to broker kidney sale New York
YORK (CNN) 23rd July 2009 -- One of the sweeping criminal complaints unveiled Thursday in New Jersey against 44 public officials and others includes a New York man accused of trying to arrange the private sale of a kidney from a donor in Israel.
Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, who lives in
Brooklyn and is not a licensed physician or medical professional, faces charges of acting as a human organ broker. He offered to obtain a kidney for an undercover FBI agent and a confidential witness working for authorities, the criminal complaint says. The price was $160,000.
Often referred to as "trading in body parts" or "trafficking organs", providing financial reward to donors of organs is now illegal in most developed countries.
Several years ago, I was approached by a man in
, "Yaakov", who suffered from chronic kidney disease, and was on dialysis for many years. Yaakov's arms were thickly scarred and little suitable space remained for the dialysis to continue. The doctors had told him Yaakov needed a kidney transplant to ensure he would see his next birthday. Israel
"There are very few kidneys donated in
," Yaakov explained to me, "so the doctors have to prioritize who gets to receive them. Given the choice between saving the life of a middle aged man like me – I'm 56 - or saving a teenager, who would you choose? So practically speaking, I will never receive the kidney I need to live, by waiting in line. I'll be waiting in line for the grave-yard." Israel
The alternative to "waiting in line" in
, would be to go privately. The transplant operation would cost around $70,000 and would be carried out in a third country. The top-notch Israeli surgical team would fly out with Yaakov to that country, where the live donor of the kidney was also located, for the transplant operation. In that third country, the procedure was legal*. Israel
He asked me to help him and his family raise the money for the operation.
I had successfully raised funds and made arrangements for other major life-saving procedures several times – so I had few doubts I could help this man also.
My only hesitation was, even if the operation was legal, was it kosher?
Before I could ask people to donate to saving Yaakov's life, I needed to know if halachikally it was the correct thing to do.
So I called up Rabbi M* (by coincidence I was staying by his son, who put me through to his father); Rabbi M is a leading international authority on medical halacha.
I explained the issue and Rabbi M replied (I paraphrase):
"The medical profession are hypocrites about this issue.
"At a transplant operation, will the surgeon be paid?" he asked me. And answered his own question "Of course he will!"
"And will the anesthetist be paid? Of course… And the nurses? The hospital itself? Even the cleaning staff! Everyone will be paid!"
"The only person who is not even 'allowed' to be paid, is the guy who's giving part of his very body for this operation – the organ donor. He's not just giving his time, he's giving his kidney – and he's not allowed to be compensated?!!"
Rabbi M went on to explain how paid kidney donors are typically poor people, from third world countries.
" You should understand that we are over-endowed with kidneys – we need just 10% of one kidney to function normally – but our Creator gave us each two. The second one is an insurance policy, in the case the first one fails. These kidney donors are cashing-in their insurance policy. They get paid between $10-20,000 for their kidney. And for them, it's a good deal. Instead of working as cheap labor, for a fee rupees per hour, to struggle a life-time to feed their families on rice, they receive enough money for their kidney to enable them to purchase some land. Once they have land, they and their families are no longer considered serfs, but move into a higher class. The organ donors are not being abused – they do this with full understanding and willingly.
"And above all, there are not enough organs to meet the needs, so this is saving a life. Pikuach nefesh. And there is no alternative."
Rabbi M concluded that, where the transaction is legal, it is also kosher, and encouraged me to participate in this important mitzva.
I therefore proceeded to raise the funds needed for Yaakov's life-saving kidney transplant operation.