Here’s a bit from the transcript of the show, in regards to illegal organ trafficking in the U.S. (don’t forget the NJ arrests over the summer):
ART CAPLAN (bioethicist, U of Penn, columnist MSNBC, author, activist):
I don’t want to believe that some of our finest and best institutions would be involved in exploitation…in what I consider human rights abuses…in what I consider racketeering…, but I fear some of them are. I think that you can justify it by saying I’ve got people dying and my job is to them. Whatever it takes to get them better, that’s what I do. I don’t accept that as an ethic but I think that’s partly how they might justify it.
But no U.S physician I know would do this.
Well, American doctors kind of wind up getting away with this because they don’t look very hard. What I mean by that is if you meet your donor on the web and you’re a transplant center doc, you wind up saying, you know I’m glad you’re here Dan and I’m glad you want to give your kidney to Art. Now is it really true that you want to give your kidney to Art? And you would say, ummm hmmm –Well, that’s good enough for me then I’m not going to ask any further questions.
Don’t ask, don’t tell?
Don’t ask don’t tell. You’re basically not going to push, and why wouldn’t you push? It’s because you want the business, we don’t have enough organs around and you’ve got people waiting to get them and you make money, significant amounts of money by doing the transplants.
But surely they can’t do it, or do they, in hospitals? No hospital would put up with this.
No, they do it inside hospitals.
WE LOOKED INTO TWO CASES WHERE TRAFFICKED KIDNEYS WERE ALLEGEDLY TRANSPLANTED BY AMERICAN DOCTORS, IN AMERICAN HOSPITALS. WE COULD NOT INDEPENDENTLY CONFIRM THE
ALLEGATIONS — MANY OF THE PARTIES INVOLVED, INCLUDING THE HOSPITALS, REFUSED TO SPEAK ON CAMERA. BUT SCHEPER-HUGHES TOLD ME SHE HAD FIRST-HAND KNOWLEDGE OF TWO RECENT CASES AT WELL-KNOWN AMERICAN HOSPITALS – INCLUDING ONE IN LOS ANGELES THAT SHE SAYS SHE WITNESSED HERSELF AFTER BEING TIPPED OFF BY AN INFORMANT.
NANCY SCHEPER-HUGHES, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA BERKELEY ANTHROPOLOGIST:
There was a purchase online through Craig’s list and two people present themselves. You know, one is Asian, you know one is Anglo and they don’t really know each other at all. In fact, they are very nervous about each other… they have not even I would say, a cockamamie story… and they…
And they went through.
And they went through without any problem, and twenty-five thousands dollars went through an elevator that was carried up by the member of the extended family and the money was paid, I believe in a hallway or I believe it was a bathroom behind the surgical unit.
RATHER (ON CAMERA)
SCHEPER-HUGHES SAYS THIS TOOK PLACE AT THE RENOWNED LOS ANGELES’ HOSPITAL CEDARS-SINAI. WE REACHED OUT TO THE HOSPITAL TO HEAR THEIR SIDE OF THE STORY. IN A FOLLOW UP EMAIL, WE ALSO ASKED A CEDARS SPOKESWOMAN SEVERAL GENERAL QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW THE HOSPITAL SCREENS DONORS. BUT THE SPOKESWOMAN DECLINED TO RESPOND, CITING PATIENT CONFIDENTIALITY RULES, AND INSTEAD ISSUED A STATEMENT THAT SAID, QUOTE: “IF AT ANY TIME DURING THE EVALUATION PROCESS THE TRANSPLANT TEAM SUSPECTS THE DONOR IS INAPPROPRIATELY BEING PAID FOR A KIDNEY, THE TRANSPLANT IS CANCELLED.” NO ONE HAS ALLEGED CEDARS DOCTORS BROKE THE LAW, WERE PART OF THE TRANSACTION, OR WERE AWARE THE KIDNEY HAD BEEN PURCHASED — BUT SCHEPER-HUGHES SAYS THAT THEY COULD HAVE, SHOULD HAVE DONE A BETTER JOB SCREENING.
THEN THERE’S THE CASE OF NICK ROSEN… A FEW YEARS AGO, THE ISRAELI MAN SENT SCHEPER-HUGHES A HOMEMADE VIDEOTAPE THAT DOCUMENTED HIM GIVING ONE OF HIS KIDNEYS TO A STRANGER FOR TRANSPLANT. ROSEN SAYS HE WAS MATCHED WITH THE RECIPIENT, A LONG ISLAND MAN, THROUGH AN ISRAELI TRAFFICKER. THE TRANSPLANT TOOK PLACE AT MOUNT SINAI HOSPITAL IN NEW YORK. ROSEN SAYS HE RECEIVED $20,000 AFTERWARDS. IN A TELEPHONE INTERVIEW, ROSEN TOLD US HE SIMPLY WANTED TO SAVE A STRANGER’S LIFE. THE RECIPIENT DIDN’T RESPOND TO SEVERAL REQUESTS FOR AN INTERVIEW WE MADE TO HIS WIFE. A MOUNT SINAI SPOKESMAN ALSO DECLINED TO COMMENT.
Do they have any legal obligations?
They don’t really have a legal obligation right now because we haven’t established a clear standard of care in the U.S. about how to deal with donors who may be sellers.