Thursday, October 12, 2017

Living kidney donation in Israel: Matnat Chaim in trouble with the law

The Israeli organization Matnat Chaim (gift of life) encourages and facilitates non-directed kidney donation, i.e. living donor kidney donation by donors who don't have a particular recipient in mind. It's generally agreed that they have saved hundreds of lives. In an earlier post I linked to stories reporting that they were under investigation for potential violations of some of Israel's laws involving the financial donations they received. (Israel, like almost everywhere, has laws against paying for a kidney...)

Now the plot has thickened, and some leaders of the organization have been arrested. They have also received strong expressions of support.  Here are two stories in English.

From The Times of Israel:
Head of transplant organization arrested over ‘organs for donations’ scheme
Charity suspected of bumping potential recipients to top of waiting list in exchange for funding, paying illegal compensation to donors 

"The organization is said to have encouraged relatives of those in need of transplants to make donations to the organization in order to shorten the waiting time to receive organs.

"Police noted that they are not treating individual donors or organ recipients as suspects. “If anything, they are victims who themselves have been working to save lives,” the statement said.

"Police said the investigation begun a number of months ago after a complaint was received against the organization from the Health Ministry. Evidence has since been collected from organ recipients, their families and other sources.

"A police spokesperson explained that the investigation was “particularly complex and sensitive” and officers have made an effort not to interrupt the continuing work of the organization “in order to allow its life saving services to continue regardless of the ongoing probe.”

and from Arutz Sheva (channel 7, Israel National News):
Rabbi Kanievsky supports head of NGO investigated by police
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky publicly visits head of the 'Matanat Chaim' NGO, under investigation for trading organ donations for money.

"Prominent haredi Torah sage and leading halakhic authority Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky visited the house of Rabbi Yeshayahu Haber, who heads the Matnat Chaim NGO, in a public show of support for the embattled organization. Police are currently investigating Matanat Chaim over suspicion that the NGO bumped patients to the top of its recipient list in exchange for donations.

"The visit is seen in the haredi world as signaling Rabbi Kanievsky's support for Haber and Matnat Chaim, which works to assist kidney donations in Israel. Earlier this month, hundreds of people who had received kidney transplants joined in a social media campaign defending Matnat Chaim, which one of them called "a sanctification of Gods name, people who do God's holy work on this earth".

"In early September, police had arrested Haber and other heads of Matnat Chaim over suspicions that members of the association advanced names on the organ transplant wait list in exchange for money that was transferred, in most cases, in the form of donations to the association.

"Police had opened the investigation several months ago following a series of complaints to the Ministry of Health. As part of the probe, police interviewed former donors to the NGO, and their suspicions were strengthened due to the fact that the majority of those donating money were unable to work and their financial situation was poor, leading authorities to conclude that these were not really donations, but in fact payment for being advanced on the waiting list for an organ transplant.

"Matnat Chaim is revered in the haredi world, and many public figures have slammed the investigation, including famed haredi author Chaim Walder, who called it a "witch hunt". Yisrael Hayom's haredi affairs writer Yehuda Shlesinger wrote last week that "the State of Israel should ask forgiveness from Rabbi Yeshayahu Haber, who saved the lives of 466 Israelis and who has been under house arrest for four days in one of the most delusional investigations ever."

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