I don’t usually write here about medical operations, but I was struck by the fact that Meir Dagan, facing the critical necessity of a liver transplant chose to have the operation done in Belarus. While I’m no expert on these matters, Belarus doesn’t strike me as a nation whose doctors are known for their expertise in this field. New York, London, sure. But Belarus?
UPDATE: When I asked Israeli blogger Dvorit Shargal about this, she said that Dagan had sought treatment in precisely those medical institutions but had not been accepted. This might mean that the prognosis for success was limited and his condition quite severe. It might mean that he was not high enough on the transplant list at those facilities and needed a country like Belarus where an autocrat could simply decree that he would get a liver.
Yisrael HaYom says Israel will not do a liver transplant for a patient over 65 (Dagan is 67). Though it will do a transplant for a patient over that age if there is a suitable match with a family member. The country is known for the especially long waits for transplants (over 1,000 are currently waiting for organs). This may relate to the high number of Orthodox Jews, who will not agree to donate organs for religious reasons.
The Jerusalem Post quotes a source saying Dagan went to Belarus because that is where the donor was. Belarus has a policy to reserve 10% of its transplants for “medical tourists,” though the actual percentage is thought to be much higher. This undoubtedly provides the country with needed foreign currency reserves. Maarive notes it is also the law of the land that every citizen must donate his organs at death for the purposes of medical transplants. In return, any citizen needing a transplant receives one free (though foreigners must pay).
Dagan is now in critical condition and faces serious complications that developed after the operation was completed. My guess is that there’s either an infection or rejection of the transplanted has occurred.
Belarus’ authoritarian leader, Alexander Lukashenko, known as the “last dictator in Europe,” has taken to making public statements in the aftermath of the operation, leading me to believe that something in the past relationship between the two may’ve caused Dagan to choose Belarus for the surgery. Possibly, this might be in return for a favor or two Dagan did for him. We can only imagine what the might mean.
While this is purely speculation, I can’t help thinking that this may be a reflection of the more than cozy relationship that Israel and its intelligence operatives maintain with the worst dictators the world has to offer. What’s next? Will we see Olmert operated on in Azerbaijan, Sharon perhaps moved for treatment to Saudi Arabia or Lieberman treated to free medical care by his Kremlin cronies?
Another sad aspect to this news is that many had hoped that Dagan might play some political role in ousting his enemy, Bibi Netanyahu from power. If all goes well, that will have to await another day.