The Ministry of Health said Saturday that a German media report on illegal organ trafficking aimed at disrupting medical tourism in Egypt as part of “a systematic campaign against the country’s national security.”
The ministry denied any claims of organ trafficking in hospitals, stating that organ transplants take place according to strict legal procedures in licensed hospitals and is subject to meticulous monitoring.
Crimes of organ trafficking and illegal transplants are punishable with harsh prison sentences and fines up to millions of Egyptian pounds under the law, the ministry said.
A video report prepared by journalist Thilo Mischke said that Egypt was an attractive destination for medical tourism at cheaper costs than Europe. The report states on several instances that there is a growing demand among foreigners, and the increasing demand in the European market is behind the development of the business in an informal manner.
To avoid legal accountability, people claim to donate their organs for free, says one interview in the report. Mischke enters a hospital as a tourist seeking medical help for his father then meets the hospital manager and asks him about costs and procedures of organ transplant.
In return, the hospital manager states it is not permissible to pay the donor in exchange for an organ and that although donors must be relatives of the ill, there could be a way to work it out.
As Mischke says his short conversation didn’t prove much. He further interviewed a Sudanese refugee who fell victim for trading his organ but didn’t get paid as promised. Another one was physically abused by a mob to have his kidney stolen despite being diagnosed with HIV.
Although the report doesn’t go further in depth, where it only gives a brief overview of what could be happening, the ministry’s absolute denial of such practices comes at the same time when a case is being overlooked in Cairo Criminal Court, including more than 40 defendants accused of managing illegal organ transplant operations in exchange of sums of money.
The suspects include doctors, nurses, and brokers, usually in charge of finding donors, in addition to two employees from a blood bank. The defendants’ assets are frozen, and they are accused of money laundering and forging official documents. According to state media reports, some defendants admitted that Egyptians were donating organs to foreigners and that doctors’ fees reached EGP 50,000 to 60,000.