Palestinians Go to Iraq for Cheap Kidney Transplants
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Despite shortages in medical supplies because of a U.N. economic embargo, poverty has spawned a new health business in Iraq _ the sale of body parts to foreigners for transplants.
Palestinians are going to Iraq because transplants are not available in the West Bank or Gaza Strip, and the operation costs far less in Iraq than in Israeli hospitals.
Fahmia Salaymeh sold her family’s gold to buy a new kidney for her daughter in Iraq.
She said she paid $4,000 to the Al-Khayal Hospital in Baghdad, plus $600 to two brokers operating out of the hospital and the donor, a 37-year-old unemployed Iraqi.
The donor, Ahmad Ibrahim, did not tell his family about the transplant, said Salaymeh’s daughter, 30-year-old Samira Abu Ramuz, whose kidneys had failed because of complications from a Caesarian delivery.
``He grabbed the blue bag filled with Iraqi money and disappeared, leaving no address and no phone number,″ said Mrs. Abu Ramuz.
Mrs. Abu Ramuz is one of 35 Palestinians from the West Bank who bought kidneys in the past year in Baghdad, where Iraqis are in desperate financial straits because of tough international sanctions.
Palestinian health officials say the kidney-selling business is unethical and dangerous. At least one Palestinian recipient has died and the medical problems of others have been exacerbated, they say.
``We did not count those who left for Iraq and never returned,″ said Dr. Faisal Abu Shahla, deputy director of the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Mrs. Abu Ramuz returned from Iraq in June after receiving Ibrahim’s kidney. After 20 days, the kidney failed and she had to go to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, where she was hooked up to a dialysis machine.
After five weeks at Hadassah, the kidney started working slowly and Mrs. Abu Ramuz was released with a bag of medications and instructions to report any changes to her doctors.
The Palestinian Health Ministry has repeatedly warned the more than 200 kidney patients in the West Bank and Gaza Strip against going to Iraq for transplants.
``There are physicians and brokers in Iraq who sell the false hope to patients,″ Abu Shahla said.