Six arrests and a continuing investigation have illuminated a dark side of medical tourism.
The allegation is that physicians and recruiters targeted low-income residents of the country and caused them to sell their internal organs, mainly kidneys.
Detained June 18 was Francisco Mora Palma, chief of nephrology at the public Hospital Calderón Guardia. He is believed to have done up to 550 kidney transplants at private hospitals outside his government job. He was detained at the respected Hospital Hotel La Católica in Guadalupe.
Mora provided kidney transplants as part of packages with prices ranging up to $150,000. Some of the patients, including one 80-plus-year-old U.S. medical tourist, had been turned down for surgery in their home countries. Others found that the procedure was must less expensive here.
The judiciary here is treating those who gave up an internal organ as victims.
Investigators detained two urologists and a vascular specialist Oct. 10. The urologists were identified by the last names of Mauro Stamati and Fonseca Guzmán. The vascular expert was identified with the last names of Monge Monge. Also detained was a local businessman, Dimosthenis Katsigiannis, who was accused of being a recruiter among would-be organ donors. When Mora was detained, a woman who worked in the security ministry's communications center was arrested. She has the last names of Cordero Solano and was identified as another recruiter.
The individuals are being held under a last passed in 2012 that makes illegal the possession, transport, sale or purchase of organs in an illicit way. Local prosecutors acted after a Mexican newspaper characterized Costa Rica as a center of illegal transplant activity.
At least one of Mora's operations did not turn out well. The overweight and elderly U.S. citizen who underwent a kidney transplant last November at his hands, died after he returned home to the United States.. The procedure took place at La Católica. The man at the time told friends here that he could not get a transplant in the United States because physicians there rejected him because of his weight and age, more than 80 years. He received the kidney of a younger friend, he reported.