Nephrologist Convicted, Fined for Illegal Kidney Transplants

The Commercial Crimes Unit in Durban has secured another conviction in the illegal kidney transplant case after nephrologist, Dr Jeff Kallmeyer, paid an admission of guilt fine of R150 000.

The 76-year-old Dr Kallmeyer now lives in Canada but previously practised from the Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban where the illegal kidney transplants were performed from 2001 to 2003.

He admitted guilt on 90 counts related to the contravention of the Human Tissue Act. It is believed that Dr Kallmeyer was instrumental in setting up the illegal ‘scheme’ with an international organ trafficking syndicate that recruited and paid donors from Israel, Brazil and Romania to donate kidneys for the 109 illegal transplants performed on rich Israeli citizens.

According to the charge sheet, payments from the syndicate were paid directly into Dr Kallmeyer’s Canadian bank account. Although he was arrested in SA in 2004 with six other accused in the case, Dr Kallmeyer managed to move to Canada shortly after the start of the investigation.

His conviction brings to six the total number of people convicted and sentenced for their involvement in the illegal kidney transplants.

In November last year, charges against Netcare were withdrawn after the private hospital group paid an admission of guilt fine of R4m, while Hebrew interpreter, Samuel Ziegler, got off with a R50 000 fine and a five-year suspended sentence after pleading guilty on 50 counts of contravening the Human Tissue Act.

Three other accused, including an Israeli recipient and two private co-ordinators of the organ syndicate, were convicted and sentenced in 2003 and 2004.

The case against the remaining accused – the former head of surgery at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, Prof John Robbs, his deputy Prof Ariff Haffejee, surgeons Drs Neil Christopher and Mahadev Naidoo and former Netcare transplant unit staffers, Lindy Dickson and Melanie Azor – has been postponed until the end of this month to allow for further investigation.

Hasa to examine transplant protocols

Meanwhile the Hospital Association of SA (Hasa) said that it was deeply distressed to learn about the involvement of Netcare -KwaZulu-Natal in the organ trafficking scandal.

“Incidents of this nature do little to advance the private hospital sector and cannot be condoned,” Hasa chairperson, Dr Nkaki Matlala, said in a statement. He said that Hasa took cognisance of Netcare’s explanation pertaining to its admission of guilt and the hospital group’s subsequent public apology.

“Hasa is further encouraged by Netcare’s stated revision of internal policies and protocols pertaining to organ transplant services, thus ensuring that occurrences of this nature do not recur,” Dr Matlala added.

To ensure that appropriate protocols pertaining to the provision of transplant services are followed and adhered to in the private sector, Hasa is to examine all existing transplant protocols, policies and standards of member hospitals.

In particular, Hasa is requesting that all members who provide transplant services, either regularly or intermittently within their establishments, submit documentation to the association’s Clinical Governance Committee.

The committee is involved in patient safety and positive clinical outcome issues including ethical practice, and has engaged with other stakeholders in the development of standards for the new Office of Health Standards and Compliance, being established by the Department of Health.

According to Dr Matlala, the committee will be tasked with examining the protocols submitted by members in order to establish whether sufficient protections are in place to ensure legal compliance and the maintenance of ethical and quality standards.

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