'Kidney mafia' on the prowl in Bahrain
Manama, November 12, 2008
Patients in Bahrain are being warned not to fall prey to a 'kidney mafia' scam that lures vulnerable people to Egypt for treatment in bogus clinics.
Doctors said many victims, who underwent transplants in 'underground' surgeries in Cairo, had returned with severe and potentially life-long complications.
Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) consultant vascular and renal transplant surgeon Dr Sadiq Abdulla said there were three patients at the hospital's kidney unit who had surgery in Cairo, including one Bahraini who was critically ill.
However, all have refused to name the place where they were operated.
"Reports that we have indicate that these patients have been in touch with agents in Egypt who are taking advantage of such surgeries that are banned all over the world," said Dr Abdulla.
"They make these patients go to that country and admit them to a 'clinic', after which they are told to await surgery."
Dr Abdulla said the patients are then moved at night to another facility, where the surgery is carried out.
"They are sworn to secrecy and when they try to ask questions, they are told the surgery was not possible," he told the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
"The desperate patients and their relatives then agree."
Dr Abdulla said the patients returned to Bahrain with records of their surgery, which have fake doctors' and clinics' names.
"We have checked with our contacts in Egypt who said no such facilities exist," said Dr Abdulla.
"Even the Egyptian doctors at the SMC say they have never heard of the hospitals or facilities mentioned in the records."
Dr Abdulla said the Internet has also thrown up a blank in all the cases.
"Someone is out there trying to make a fast buck and we advise patients to be aware of such unscrupulous activities," he warned.
Dr Abdulla admitted it was possible that many people who have undergone such treatment may not suffer any ill effects.
"However, we feel that at least 50 per cent of the patients suffer from some complications or the other," he said.
Dr Abdulla said the scam came to light more than four months ago when patients started arriving at the SMC, who had been to Cairo for treatment.
"When we questioned them, they expressed ignorance at where they had their surgeries," he said.
Dr Abdulla said while he understood the patients' desperation, he suggested they be aware of the risks before they entrust their lives to touts.
"There is a shortage of organs in Bahrain - it exists all over the world - but this is terrible," he said.
Dr Abdulla said there is a shortage of facilities, machines, manpower and beds in Bahrain, which is why patients go abroad.
"We have ourselves to blame in a way because we are unable to meet the patients' expectations. But the patients must understand that they are helping themselves even less this way."
Dr Abdulla said the problems the Health Ministry is facing can be overcome gradually but lives once gone cannot be returned.
"It is better for patients to remain in Bahrain and undergo dialysis and other treatment rather than travel abroad and endanger their lives even more."
While unrelated living donor surgeries have been banned around the world for several years, they were allowed in Pakistan less than three years ago and in the Philippines earlier this year.-TradeArabia News Service