The Health Ministry has issued new rules prohibiting the health funds from referring patients for organ transplants abroad without first verifying that the donated organs were not obtained using illegal sales or force. Currently, the health-service providers don't check the source of organs used in transplants obtained by their members overseas.
Ministry Director-General Prof. Avi Yisraeli said in an official document released Wednesday that the health funds would be required to rule out any possibility that the sale of organs or other illegal or inappropriate activities were involved in the transplants. This would entail obtaining detailed information and notarized depositions from would-be recipients, but a lie detector test would not be required, Yisraeli said.
In Israel, organ transplants from live donors are governed by ministry regulations that require approval from either local assessment committees or a central assessment committee. The regulations are aimed at ensuring that organs were not donated because of family, financial, social or other pressures, or with any money or valuable goods passing from the recipient's side to the donor's.
The donation of organs from cadavers is regulated by the Anatomy and Pathology Law of 1953, as amended. Transplants were first performed in Israel in the 1980s. Donors and their families are not permitted to choose the recipients; the selection process is carried out by the Israel Transplant Center.
Recently, the ministry presented a government-sponsored bill that would for the first time set in law - rather than in regulations - the prohibition on the sale of organs, from both cadavers and live donors. Under the bill, regulations against receipt or payment of money or goods for organs, and against acting as a go-between would be in force "whether the taking or transplant of the organ is meant to be carried out in Israel or abroad."
Israel, said the ministry, agreed with the approach used in "enlightened countries" under which organs for transplant should not be sold.
Some health funds have financed - through supplementary insurance plans - the transplant of organs abroad that were obtained via sales or force. This was improper, Yisraeli wrote, and "sent a double and very problematic message, because the state supported a universal ban on the sale of organs."