A Saudi man who married a Filipino woman was hoping to exchange a kidney in addition to wedding vows, Philippine officials said Monday. But his wedding bliss was cut short as authorities caught on to the scam and blocked the planned transplant.
The wealthy foreigner proposed to the woman, whose name was not given, in an attempt to bypass the Philippines' strict regulations set up to fight the country's widespread organ trafficking.
Foreigners are banned from receiving organ transplants from local donors and organ sales are punishable by up to 20 years in jail. Exceptions are made for family members.
The Saudi man, however, did not succeed in marrying the woman to circumventing the rules.
Hospital officials noticed the couple spoke no common language and had wed only very recently. The government-run hospital refused the transplant despite the foreigner's claim the donor was indeed his wife and that the donation was voluntary.
"Clearly, it was not a donation. It was actually an organ sale," Esperanza Cabral, Social Welfare Secretary, told a news conference Monday, adding that the case was refused two months ago but no charges had been filed against either party.
Officials offered no details about the man's identity or why he needed a transplant.
5th worst spot for organ trafficking
The World Health Organization named the Philippines the fifth worst spot for organ trafficking in 2005. The doctors' group Philippine Society of Nephrology said that 81 percent of 1,046 kidney transplants performed in 2007 were from living, non-related donors raising suspicions about the nature of these donations.
Asia Against Child Trafficking, a private group that tracks down underprivileged donors recruited by organ trafficking syndicates, has located more than 195 kidney donors in the past year from communities southeast of Manila.
Amihan Abueva, the group's regional coordinator, said that at least two donors have filed cases against the organ traffickers for paying them less than promised.
The Philippines allows organ trafficking cases to be filed up 10 years after the crime was committed for small scale cases and up to 20 years for the larger ones.