A German journalist who produced a video report on organ trafficking in Egypt that aired on German TV last week has found himself facing criticism from Egypt’s Health Ministry for “harming Egyptian medical tourism, as part of a systematic campaign to harm the country’s national security.”
The ministry’s comments came in a statement published on Sunday that impugned the legitimacy of the video report by asserting that footage gathered from outside ministry hospitals does not provide that organ trafficking occurs inside.
The 15-minute video report — authored by German journalist Thilo Mischke and aired on the privately owned German channel ProSieben on August 7 — features the manager of a private hospital, a trafficker and two Sudanese migrants who were victims of organ traffickers.
In the video, the hospital manager tells the journalist, who is posing as a Swiss tourist aiming to buy a kidney for his father, that the hospital’s protocol stipulates that the donor must be related to the patient and that the transaction must not entail a financial return. However, shortly afterward he the manager laughs and says: “There is no problem.”
The interview with the Sudanese migrants shines light on some of the medical risks involved in the process as well as the exploitation that those supplying organs to the economy face. “The broker knew I was HIV positive, and he lured me [into the deal] by promising to send me for treatment abroad. Then they locked me up with armed guards for two months. The guards were not aware of my illness, so they took turns beating and raping me. Then, I went to a private hospital and they removed my kidney. Now the person who received it via transplant must have HIV as well, and the doctors knew.”
In its statement, Egypt’s Health Ministry asserted that ministry teams perform periodic reviews to strictly monitor Egyptian hospitals that are licensed to perform organ transplant operations. The ministry also responded to the video’s documentation of a disregard for hospital protocol, by asserting that in the event that hospital authorities are unable to find a relative to donate an organ, the patient’s case file and potential donor are presented to a committee composed of three doctors. This committee is tasked with determining the donor-patient compatibility, explaining the potential consequences of the operation, and ensuring there is no suspicion of organ trafficking.
In July, the general prosecutor referred 41 defendants to trial for organ trafficking, according to the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper. The defendants consist of doctors, nurses and traffickers who bought organs for prices ranging from LE10,000-50,000 for a kidney.