• Sweden edition
 
Israel organ harvesting scandal 'medically impossible'

Israel organ harvesting scandal 'medically impossible'

Published: 31 Aug 2009 15:48 GMT+02:00
Updated: 31 Aug 2009 15:48 GMT+02:00

The saga of the Aftonbladet article -- an allegation in a Swedish tabloid that Israeli soldiers steal the organs of Palestinian teenagers -- caught me right between the eyes. I’m an American doctor. I’m Jewish; I have Swedish roots. In the supermarket I pick the longest line so I can catch up on the tabloids while I wait.

I read the English translation of this article (‘Our sons are plundered of their organs’ Aftonbladet 8/26/09, original in Swedish 8/17/09). It’s a hoot. Rambling and disjointed, it’s rife with irrelevant statistics and unproven statements, not unlike a recent favourite of mine in the Weekly World News, ‘Dick Cheney Abducted by Aliens.’ That one had photos too.

The Aftonbladet piece raises some medical issues I’d like to address. Among the organs successfully transplanted are heart and lungs- harvested from the chest- and kidneys, liver, pancreas, and intestine-harvested from the abdomen. Two critical issues that determine the ‘health’ of the harvested organ and therefore whether the transplant will be successful are its blood supply and its freedom from infection.

The story relies heavily on the author’s eyewitness account of a tense night on the West Bank seventeen years ago. Recall of the details of an event deteriorates over a matter of weeks or months and concurrent stress such as the presence of gunfire serves as a ‘memory distraction’ that makes accurate recall even more difficult.

Nonetheless the author describes for us what happened in 1992 to one Palestinian teenager whose organs, he believes, were stolen. According to his account, Israeli soldiers shot the young guy in the chest, then in each leg, then once ‘in the stomach.’

I take this last to mean the abdomen, since it isn’t possible to see the individual organ called the stomach from the outside of the body.

A gunshot wound to the chest or abdomen is a serious injury because it can damage internal organs- either by interruption of the blood supply, which causes hemorrhage, or because it causes infection via perforation of the intestine and/or the introduction of a foreign body. A guy shot in both legs can’t go far. Why, if the goal is to steal organs worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, would soldiers shoot an individual in both the chest and abdomen and risk damage to the valuable organs in these body cavities? Such organs are not usable for transplant.

The quality of the argument does not merit too much more ink. The writer of the Aftonbladet article made his most important contribution to our understanding of his work when he acknowledged that he’d not verified any of the claims he made. Most recently, the family of the young Palestinian whose organs were supposedly swiped said they’d never talked with the journalist and had no reason to think any of his allegations of organ theft were true.

As much as I enjoy the medical side of things, I think there’s a more instructive reading of this article. When I look at it with historical eyes, it has a macabre humour of its own. Is this writer serious? This story is such an old one, a twenty-first century version of the blood libel that has fueled brutality against Jews for centuries. The Aftonbladet piece made much of the story of the recent corruption bust in New Jersey that snared a couple of disgraced rabbis allegedly brokering human organs for cash. How is it that an American scandal that resulted in the arrest of 30 people, among them elected officials with the last names van Pelt, Cammarano, Elwell, and Vega, ends up a Scandinavian-modern version of medieval anti-Semitism?

The Swedish ambassador to Israel should be recognized for her recent condemnation of Aftonbladet’s revival of this hardy perennial of anti-Semitism. But the Swedish foreign ministry looks only disingenuous with its flat-footed protestations of respect for freedom of the press. That’s not what this is about. A modern European nation gave up a chance to make a simple statement to both reject anti-Semitism and reaffirm principles of good journalism.

Why they chose the route they did I don’t know, but Sweden looks parochial and out of step. We live in the information age. Read the blogs of any major news story. The public is wise to low journalism and increasingly rejects hate-mongering. The government of Sweden should get with the programme and do the same.

Andrea Meyerhoff MD is a faculty member at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
National
Pupils find killer's rifle in Swedish sports lesson
The location of the hidden weapon. Photo: Polisen

Pupils find killer's rifle in Swedish sports lesson

Three teenage schoolgirls from southern Sweden were left gobsmacked after finding an AK-47 Kalashnikov that belonged to a convicted murderer, during a physical education class. READ  

International
'Non-existent' EU cooperation on refugees
Refugees in Lampedusa, Italy in 2013. Photo: TT

'Non-existent' EU cooperation on refugees

Sweden's EU commissioner Cecilia Malmström has criticized European Union countries for a lack of solidarity when it comes to taking in refugees. READ  

Politics
Stefan Löfven voted in as new Prime Minister
Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven. Photo: TT

Stefan Löfven voted in as new Prime Minister

Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven has been voted in as the new Prime Minister of Sweden. READ  

Politics
Reinfeldt's top team hold last meeting
Fredrik Reinfeldt is exiting Sweden's political stage. Photo: TT

Reinfeldt's top team hold last meeting

Sweden's outgoing centre-right cabinet have gathered for their last meeting, as Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven prepares to take over as Prime Minister. READ  

Interview
Geena Davis: 'I want to be in a Swedish movie'
Geena Davis. Photo: AP

Geena Davis: 'I want to be in a Swedish movie'

Oscar-winning Hollywood actress Geena Davis was an exchange student in Sweden in the seventies and was once engaged to a Swede. She chatted to the The Local's Natalia Brzezinski about how she'd love to star in a Swedish movie. READ  

Politics
Löfven in U-turn over restaurant sales tax hike
Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven. Photo: TT

Löfven in U-turn over restaurant sales tax hike

Incoming Prime Minister Stefan Löfven won't be increasing taxes in restaurants as promised, despite his strong criticism of the former government's tax cuts in 2012. READ  

Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 2nd - 9th
The Weeping is one of the works on sale this weekend. Photo: Stockholm's Affordable Art Fair

What's On in Sweden: October 2nd - 9th

Stockholm's Affordable Art Fair returns, British rocker Midge Ure is in Malmö and one of Gothenburg's most creative spaces is hosting a ten year anniversary party. READ  

Sport
Malmö beat Olympiacos in Champions clash
Rosenberg celebrates his second goal. Photo: TT

Malmö beat Olympiacos in Champions clash

Malmö became the first Swedish side to win a Champions League match in 14 years after beating Olympiacos 2-0 on Wednesday night. READ  

Education
Three Swedish unis in world's top 100
One of the buildings at the Karolinska Institute. Photo: TT

Three Swedish unis in world's top 100

Three Swedish universities were ranked among the top 100 in the world in the new Times Higher Education ranking, with another two featured in the top 200. READ  

What's next on Sweden's political stage?
Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven. Photo: TT

What's next on Sweden's political stage?

Upcoming Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced his new Red-Green coalition government on Friday, but what happens next? Here are all the important dates you need to know. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
Try out your very own office in Stockholm - for free
Gallery
Stefan Löfven through the years
Gallery
People-watching: October 1st
Analysis
Should Sweden's school age be raised?
National
Top Swedish skier killed in Chile avalanche
Blog updates

01 October

Academy-Award Winning Actor Geena Davis on Changing the Way We View Women in Media (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"There are two moments in Geena Davis’s life that molded her into the powerful women’s advocate and founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media she is today: living in Sweden and starring in Thelma & Louise. The first part of her personal journey took flight in Sandviken, a small rocky town north of..." READ »

 

01 October

Future tense – ska or kommer att? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej igen! Karen had a question the following question on that about future tense: Explain when you use “komma att ” and “ska”. I’m running along forever here using “ska” and realize suddenly everyone uses “komma att” this and that all the time! In Swedish there are three different ways to express future tense and they are not..." READ »

 
 
 
National
JohannaN: Jewellery inspired by northern Sweden
National
Apology for Swedish model's stolen photos
Politics
New coalition agrees on defence and migration
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Botkyrka
Education
New government to make school compulsory to 18
Politics
Sweden Democrat wins Deputy Speaker spot
National
Swedish scientists sneak Bob Dylan lyrics into articles
Lifestyle
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Gallery
People-watching: September 28th
National
When Italian style meets Swedish simplicity
Lifestyle
Review: Sweden's first alcohol-free nightclub
Gallery
In Pictures: The MS Estonia disaster
Lifestyle
Ten things expat women notice in Sweden
Politics
What's next on Sweden's political stage?
Gallery
Sweden's 2014 election: Most memorable moments
Society
What's on in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 24th
Seaman Oliver Gee with his first lobster
Lifestyle
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Gallery
In Pictures: Fredrik Reinfeldt through the years.
Sponsored Article
How to start a business in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

865
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN