Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Liberian Government Defends Mercy Ships & Dismisses "Kidney Buying" Rumours

The Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, has come to the defense of Mercy Ships in the wake of rumors that the organisation was dealing in "kidney buying" from victims that fell prey to evil men. "We have an information about rumors that are going around that people on Mercy Ships are buying kidneys, and selling them in Europe or the United States; this is not true; it is blatant lie," Dr Walter G Gwenigalie, Health and Social Welfare Minister stated in a very strong mood. The medical doctor added "Mercy Ships has served the people of Liberia since 2003 with high medical standards and distinction. It is a global charity that has operated hospital ships in developing nations since 1978." It can be recalled recently that a story on the website, written by one of its correspondents in Monrovia, reported that there were rumors that Mercy Ships was allegedly involved in "ritualistic killing designed to extract kidneys and other human parts for commercial purposes". The site's story continues: "In the past four months, some bodies that were found with missing kidneys include Mack Nimbo, a deportee from the USA whose body was discovered at the Barnersville Junction, outside Monrovia with the back open and kidneys removed. A taxi driver only identified as Sumo was also discovered with kidneys removed at Armed Bush curve in Kakata, Margibi County. An unidentified body of a man believed to be in his 50s was found with kidneys extracted, under the Gabriel Johnson Tucker Bridge (New Bridge) in Monrovia. An old lady, only known as Ma Wata was abducted from her house midnight in the Jamaica Road area, and was found in an old toilet house with kidneys removed two days later," the report in the Frontpage maintained. "Monrovia has been buzzing as residents debate on the allegations involving those reportedly behind the buying of kidneys. As rumors were widely spreading, some residents have been suggesting that they heard that Mercy Ships was involved in buying kidneys," the report added. Dr Gwenigalie, in his reaction to the story, vehemently refuted it and said the Mercy Ships was not only involved in performing life-saving operations but was also helping in building clinics and other facilities in various communities around Liberia. Dr Gwenigale defended Mercy Ships at a well-attended press conference jointly held by his Ministry and Mercy Ships officials on Friday, August 15, 2008 at the MoHSW. The international chief executive officer of Mercy Ships, Samuel Smith, responding to a question from a reporter as to whether they perform surgical works on kidneys, said: "Mercy Ships does not carry on or perform any internal organ operation involving the kidneys, heart, etc." He said that they are involved in reconstructing the face, eye, tumor, among other surgeries. Journalists were barred from asking more questions to Mr Smith by Minister Gwenigale who said, "I call you here, so ask me all the questions and leave Mercy Ships alone but if you like, you can follow us on the Ship, we are on our way there right now". Still trying to show the impossibility of using or transplanting unsterile kidneys and maybe other human parts, the learned Minister, who himself is a surgeon, stated: "It is of course true that in a few countries in the world it is possible for very advanced medical personnel to transplant human kidneys from a donor to a person whose own kidneys have failed. This is an exceedingly complex and risky surgical procedure, requiring specialized equipment that is found in only a few countries on this earth. Only surgeons with long years of experience are capable of even doing such transplants. Speaking as a surgeon myself, it is preposterous to even think that a human kidney removed by amateurs in unsterile conditions could possibly be used for a medical transplant. Organs such as kidneys used for transplants must be removed under sterile conditions by experienced surgeons, and then stored under very closely controlled conditions. They must be used very quickly - there can be no delay in transplanting the organ into the recipient. From this very brief description, any sensible person will clearly understand that there is no possible way that a person's kidney - or any other organ - could be removed by an amateur and still be useful for a transplant. There is no possible way that any representative of Mercy Ships would even consider receiving such an organ - free or for money. There is no possible way that any such organ would have any cash value for any medical purpose. There is no possible way that an organ could be carried to the recipient in time to be useful for a transplant. There is no possible way that the would-be organ seller could escape arrest and prosecution for this illegal act". Minister Gwenigale concluded by saying "If anyone hears a report of the sale of any human organs, I ask you to report it immediately to the police, and to call me personally at the Ministry of Health & Social Welfare so that our own investigation can put an end to these preposterous, false, and malicious rumors".

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