Iran’s Charity Association for the Support of Kidney Patients (CASKP) says the Ministry of Health has to establish protocols to prevent the sale of Iranian kidneys to foreign patients. The ministry’s response, however, is that the Society must be held accountable for this problem.
On Sunday July 20, CASKP chief Mostafa Qasemi told the Fars News Agency: “These patients enter the country with false documents; doctors do not examine their documents and are paid millions to carry out a kidney transplant for them.”
In Iran, kidney donation to foreign nationals is illegal, but according to Qasemi, in recent years intermediaries have been producing fake National ID Cards and Birth Certificates and procuring Iranian kidneys for non-Iranians.
The head of CASKP accused the Ministry of Health of failing to respond adequately to the situation, insisting that the ministry has been receiving reports of these violations in recent years but has not taken any steps to solve the problem.
Qasemi referred to two “Saudi patients” who travelled to Iran recently for kidney transplants, noting that one of the patients died during treatment. According to Qasemi, the Saudi Embassy pursued the matter, a number of the people on the medical team were arrested and the investigations even involved the Ministry of Intelligence.
The price of a kidney in Iran can range anywhere between 45 million and 75 million toumans, and the trade is supervised by the Charity Association for the Support of Kidney Patients. However, Qasemi reports that each Saudi patient paid 300 million toumans for the procedure and large sums of money were exchanged in the process.
According to Qasemi, foreign patients traveling to Iran for kidney transplants are mostly coming from Saudi Arabia, Persian Gulf countries, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan and India.
Meanwhile, the head of the Ministry of Health’s Charity Foundation for Special Diseases has been highly critical of the atmosphere created by Qasemi’s allegations that Iran has a black market in kidneys. On Monday, Katayoon Najafizadeh referred to the case of the Saudi kidney patients, saying: “The Charity Association for the Support of Kidney Patients is responsible for this situation and must be held accountable.”
ISNA quoted Najafizadeh as saying that according to legislation passed in 2008, foreign nationals can get transplants in Iran from their compatriots. “Kidney transplants for foreign nationals are allowed. But this does not mean that they are provided with an Iranian kidney,” Najafizadeh said; “The latter is illegal.”
She says the ministry is not accountable for the situation with the Saudi patients because it is only responsible for issuing a permit for foreign nationals who seek a kidney transplant in Iran. However, an Iranian seeking a kidney transplant from anyone other than their kin has to get a permit from CASKP, and these Saudi patients presented fake Iranian birth certificates to CASKP to procure their permit. Therefore, CASKP is accountable for the incident.
She confirmed, however, that the Ministry of Intelligence had been involved in the investigation of the incident with the Saudi patients and that a group of smugglers had been arrested. She went on to criticize Mostafa Qasemi’s statements as an affront to “Iranian honour and reputation.”
The ministry adamantly denies any reports concerning kidney transplants to foreign nationals. The Ministry of Health supervisory board says any report of misconduct in kidney transplants has been dealt with severely by the ministry and the only violations reported have involved private hospitals. The ministry has blamed physicians for failing to adequately scrutinize patient documents. According to the Ministry of Health: “Physicians have been sloppy in the examination of patient documents, even though it is very easy to recognize if they are treating an Arab or Afghan foreign national. Physicians are not complying with the law and are readily accepting fake documents.”
The minister of health announced last year that he had alerted the College of Physicians and Ministry of Health security about organized human organ traffickers and speculators.
Statistics reveal that more than 2,300 kidney transplants are carried out each year in Iran and the donors are anywhere between 22 and 34 years of age. Rising poverty has been cited as a cause of the rising number of kidneys traded for transplants.