San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Hospital Denies Allegations of Kidney Theft

Officials at the public CalderónGuardiaHospital in San José are fuming after a Canadian man questioned the removal of his kidney and insinuated the hospital stole it for use in another person.

As a response to these comments, published in Canada and the United States, the hospital asked the Ministry of Foreign Relations in a March 28 letter to “establish a judicial process” against the man, who has returned to Canada, demanding he retract and apologize for the comments.

Torre Kelley, 27, was admitted to Calderón Guardia at 5:27 a.m. on March 9, after he fell approximately eight meters down a ravine, breaking his jaw and sustaining various other injuries. Doctors removed Kelley’s kidney, without his consent, saying it was necessary to save his life.

Following his release, Kelley said he did not think the kidney was damaged to where it should have been taken out, and has insinuated that it was organ theft.

According to the hospital report, when doctors examined Kelley they found that his left kidney had ruptured, and removed it. Dr. Carlos Castillo, head of Urology Services, wrote that it was “an emergency surgery” and impossible at that point to wake Kelley to get his permission.

Dr. Raul Valverde, chief of the Surgery Department, told The Tico Times that the kidney had “exploded,” and insisted that without the surgery, Kelley would have died.

“It’s indignant that having saved his life – and he hasn’t even paid for it – he goes around saying these things,” Valverde said. According to the doctor, Kelley owes Calderón Guardia ¢2.5 million ($4,970).

Last year, a German tourist spoke out against Costa Rican doctors after his leg was amputated during his vacation, also without his consent. Doctors from the public San RafaelHospital in Alajuela, northwest of San José, told The Tico Times Ronald Jurisch had a strain of gangrene and would have died if his leg was not removed (TT, Feb. 4, 2005).

Kelley, who awoke to the surprise of having one less kidney, refused treatment for his broken jaw and returned to his home in Kelowna, British Columbia, after being released from the hospital March 14.

Kelley was unavailable for comment this week, having had his jaw wired shut at a local hospital. Though he had previously told The Tico Times he would send his account of events via e-mail, nothing was received by press time.

In a previous interview with KING 5 News, based in Seattle, in the U.S. state of Washington, he questioned whether or not his kidney should have been removed, noting that there were no bruises around that part of his body to suggest that he had sustained injuries necessitating the surgery.

A letter dated March 23, from the Costa Rican General Director of the Foreign Service, Michel Chartier, alerted officials at the hospital that Kelley had made statements to Canadian and U.S. media alleging that his kidney had been stolen for the use in another person. Chartier urged the hospital to respond, worried that otherwise it could “cause a lot of damage to the country’s image.”

In a letter dated March 28, and signed by Castillo, Valverde and the hospital’s General Director Luis Paulino Hernández, the hospital officially requested Chartier, by way of the Foreign Ministry, pursue a judicial process against Kelley.

Chartier, however, told The Tico Times in an e-mail this week that any sort of legal action must be initiated by the hospital, and the Foreign Ministry would only intervene if it had to notify Kelley through diplomatic channels.

As to what sort of legal route the hospital would take, Chartier said that was up to officials at Calderón Guardia. Hospital officials did not return further phone calls as to whether they would proceed with legal actions.

Chartier also told The Tico Times that he had had multiple conversations with officials at the Canadian Embassy.

“I explained to them our concern, of which they said they were aware and were very sorry for what happened.”

The embassy also said it would make use of Kelley’s insurance policy to cover his outstanding hospital bills, according to Chartier.

When questioned by The Tico Times, an embassy spokeswoman said she could not discuss the matter.

Brad Kirkham, a friend of Kelley’s who was present when he fell and rode in the ambulance with him to the hospital, told The Tico Times in an interview from Canada that personnel at the hospital were unhelpful when they arrived.

“They were all kind of looking at each other with smiles on their faces, and I was looking at my friend on his death bed, as far as I could tell,” Kirkham said. “If you would have seen their attitude… it was a really strange thing.”

The accident occurred as Kelley, Kirkham and four others walked back to their San José hotel after the group’s first night out in Costa Rica, having all arrived the previous day.


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