Police in the south are investigating suspicions of organ-trafficking in cases where women aged 18-20 are being flown to Turkey, where they undergo surgery to remove organs that are transplanted into older women patients. The investigation, on which a gag order has just been lifted and has been underway for a month, is focusing on a Be’er Sheva resident in his 40s with a criminal record, who has fled.
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In late March, the parents of one of the young women filed a complaint at the Be’er Sheva police station after they found out that their 18-year-old daughter had flown to Turkey and was hospitalized to have a kidney removed. When the young woman returned to Israel she was detained for questioning, but it emerged that the surgery had not taken place. The woman said she had flown to Turkey for that purpose but had been pressured into returning to Israel without undergoing the procedure.
During questioning the name of another young woman was revealed who had been to Turkey and donated a kidney, and was about to return to Israel.
The police detained her when she landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport, where she told investigators that she had donated the kidney to a woman in her 50s who lived in central Israel, whom she had known for about 18 months. She said she felt sorry for the woman and had therefore decided to donate the kidney and had not received any money in exchange. The young woman told investigators she regretted having donated the kidney, but continued to deny receiving money for it.
Police, however, believe that some young women do take money because they are in severe economic straits.
The recipients of the organs admitted to the police that they had undergone a kidney transplant and that they had paid the hospital 300,000 shekels (approximately $85,700) for the surgery. One of the recipients is an Israeli citizen who lives in the United States, who returned to the U.S. after the surgery.
The young women who donated a kidney all said they had not done so for payment but because of an emotional bond they had developed with the recipients.
Police believe money did exchange hands, in cash, to make the exchange untraceable. Police are also investigating a doctor from central Israel whom they suspect carried out tissue compatibility tests and advised the donors before the transplant. The doctor confessed to knowing the main suspect, whom he said sent him patients for various tests.
The Turkish police are also involved in the probe. The main suspicion is that organs were trafficked through a third person, who mediated between the donors and recipients in exchange for payment.
“This is a very serious suspicion of organ trafficking, extending to a number of places in the world. Young women in severe economic trouble are being taken advantage of. For a great deal of money they are motivated to go to a foreign country to donate an organ to sick women. We have found a number of women who donated such organs and regretted it, and we are in the midst of a developing investigation.”