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"I was very concerned about his safety," she says. She happened to be visiting a friend in New York when Rosen arrived for the transplant. She made Rosen promise to call her after he met with his connection, an escort he knew only as Arik who took him for more medical tests. Arik is shown in the video.
Rosen says he met Brad Gursky for the first time a few weeks later in an outdoor parking lot in Queens.
The transplant was done at Mount Sinai Medical Center, and some of its doctors appear on Rosen's video. One doctor says, "There are a lot of very important kind of life-or-death issues that we need to discuss." The doctor pauses. "And honestly I don't think we can have a really ..."
The doctor gestures with his hand until Rosen says, "You want me to put this down?" The camera goes off.
Mount Sinai officials refuse to discuss the case and details of their kidney donor screening process. Dr. Daniel Herron, a surgeon who appears to be on Rosen's video, said he was aware of the video but that he could not talk without checking with the Mount Sinai press office. The next day, the press office said Herron was away and not available for an interview.
Hospital spokeswoman Brenda Perez issued a statement describing Mount Sinai's transplant screening process as "rigorous and comprehensive." The process "assesses each donor's motivation," the statement says, and all donors are "clearly advised" that it's illegal to receive money or gifts for being an organ donor.
"The pretransplant evaluation may not detect premeditated and skillful attempts to subvert and defraud the evaluation process," the statement concludes.
On its Web site, Mount Sinai says people may not donate a kidney if they were solicited by advertising or if they have a financial incentive.
Transplant centers in the United States are mostly free to devise their own rules for screening donors to make sure they are not selling organs. Experts suggest that some hospitals do little to block black-market kidneys because transplant procedures bring in so much money.
Apart from detecting black-market organ transactions, donor screening is intended to make sure the donor understands the implications of the surgery, and is not being coerced by social pressure or other means.
Rosen says he and "the recipient" (he rarely mentions Gursky by name) made up a story to convince Mount Sinai doctors they were cousins and that no money was changing hands. Rosen says the screening process at Mount Sinai "seemed OK," and he has no way of knowing whether the hospital or doctors suspected anything was amiss.
Rosen told his story in interviews with The Associated Press by phone, through messages on Facebook, and in a television interview in a park in Cologne, Germany, where he was traveling.
He says his video makes the case that organ donors should be "compensated," the word he prefers over "paid." Some doctors and kidney patients believe a legal system for compensating living donors should be created. They believe better incentives for donors could increase the supply of organs and save lives.
Rosen says he counts himself among those advocates and derides opponents as moralists who offer no alternative for kidney patients and potential donors like him who want to help but cannot afford to do so without payment.
"This is months of tests and recuperation. And you can't work, and it makes a lot of sense to compensate," Rosen says.
In addition to the agreed-upon price, Rosen says, he asked for and got another $1,000 for a friend he stayed with in New York while having tests and the surgery. Questioned by the AP, the friend denied getting any money. Rosen refuses to say who paid him but says the cash was left in a brown manila envelope on his hospital bed.
In the video, Rosen and Gursky are together more than once: at a coffee shop where Rosen gives him a small book of Psalms and posing for a snapshot together at a restaurant, a celebration after the transplant.
Gursky says he is grateful. "Nick is an awesome guy," he says. "He saved my life."
Rosen says he spent the last of the $20,000 a year or two ago and has no regrets. "I thought what I was doing was right."
Nick Rosen's video:
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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