In what is believed to be the first legally proved case of organ trafficking, Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, 60 admitted to helping secure organs for US customers and pleaded guilt to the charges against him.
He said he had been helping to secure organs from people in Israel in exchange for payments upwards of $120,000. In his defense his legal team argued that his services saved the lives of terribly ill people, stuck for years on official waiting lists, that can often seem arbitrary and unfair.
Unfortunately for Rosenbaum, the Feds were not falling for that line as New Jersey's U.S. Attorney, Paul Fishman explained:
"A black market in human organs is not only a grave threat to public health, it reserves lifesaving treatment for those who can best afford it at the expense of those who cannot ... We will not tolerate such an affront to human dignity."
But Rosenbaum's lawyers argued back saying he had never solicited a client or physically stolen organs. He simply arranged kidney donors from Israel, who were compensated for their medical and other associated costs. Blood samples of the patient were flown to Israel where they were checked for compatibility against possible donors. Once a suitable donor was found, they would be flown to the US where the kidney transplants were performed in some of the top US hospitals. They did not say which ones.
Kidney transplants are one of the most established and straight forward of organ donations, and of course because the donor can survive on his remaining kidney there is no loss of life involved. Nearly 5000 people die each year in the US, while waiting for a replacement organ to be found, and while its illegal almost everywhere in the world to buy or sell organs for transplant, the shortage of organs naturally creates a black and even a gray market as you might perhaps call Rosenbaum's operation.
Art Caplan, co-chairman of a United Nations task force on organ trafficking, said:
[Rosenbaum had pleaded guilty to one of the] most heinous crimes against another human being ... Internationally, about one quarter of all kidneys appear to be trafficked ...But until this case, it had not been a crime recognized as reaching the United States."
Written by Rupert Shepherd