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July 21, 2009

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Saudi marries Filipino for her kidney

A SAUDI Arabian man married a Filipino woman as a cover for buying her kidney, trying to circumvent the Philippines' strict new rules to fight organ trafficking, officials said yesterday.

The man's transplant was blocked by authorities, but the case shows the difficulty the Philippines faces in fighting rampant trade in organs fueled by wealthy-but-ailing foreigners buying kidneys from poor Filipinos.

A human rights group says it has documented nearly 200 poor kidney donors recruited by organ-trafficking syndicates in a single province in the past few years.

Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said the Saudi man applied for a transplant at a government-run hospital, listing his wife as his voluntary donor.

But hospital officials became suspicious when they learned the couple had married only recently and that the husband spoke no English or Tagalog, while the Filipino wife spoke no Arabic. "Clearly, it was not a donation," Cabral said yesterday. "It was actually an organ sale."

The Saudi man's transplant application was rejected two months ago, though neither he nor his wife faced any charges. Neither would say how much the woman was promised in exchange for her kidney, Cabral said.

Justice Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor said the transplant would have been allowed had the marriage been authentic and if there was no commercial transaction involved.

The government recently adopted strict rules restricting foreigners from receiving organ transplants from Filipino donors.


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