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The truth behind
organ donation
& transplants

The truth behind organ donation & transplants

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… The truth behind organ donation & organ transplants

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The Nasty Side of Organ Transplanting.

Chapter 24

Organ Selling, Organ Theft

“But obviously you do have to suspect something when the patient is a wealthy Rio socialite and her “donor” is a poor, barefoot “cousin” from the country.”

Nancy Scheper-Hughes[163]

You might have heard the “myth” about the man visiting a bar in a foreign country and being invited for a drink by a young woman. He wakes up next morning in a hotel room with a thank you note and two sewn up wounds from where his kidneys were extracted. This often repeated tale might have taken place in any exotic city in the world. Harvest promoters minimize and cloud the reality of the organ trade with these exaggerated tales. Their unreliability is used as proof that organ theft is of minimal concern.

The reality is that it is cheaper and easier to pay an impoverished person a few thousand dollars for a kidney than create an elaborate organ theft scheme. An organ seller doesn't need to be trapped or imprisoned but will wait patiently while disease and tissue matching tests are completed, and the organ tourist prepared. A vast network of organ brokers concentrate on Pakistan, India, South Africa, Peru, Romania, Bolivia, Brazil,[164] and China as source destinations. Buyers arrive from the richer European countries and Israel, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and some Arab countries. Buying an organ requires money and lack of conscience. Selling requires a sense of despair and hopelessness. Following are a few examples of the organ trade. :


The police in Amritsar city in Punjab state, India unearthed what they call “the mother of all scandals in human organ trafficking in India."

Indian organ sellers were paid less than $US1000 for a kidney then didn't receive adequate post-operative care. They were threatened with imprisonment for breaking the law prohibiting organ selling if they complained to police. At least six died of post donation complications.

The police have arrested several doctors, middlemen, and donors, including the alleged main player. He is transplant surgeon, Dr Parveen Kumar Sareen, who works for Kakkar Hospital which is run by a private charitable trust. Also arrested was Dr O P Mahajan, principal of the Government Medical College and chairman of the authorisation committee that certifies that no commercial transaction has taken place.[165]:

United States of America

Bart Wheatley of Intermountain Donation Services in Utah obtained the body of a young man who had committed suicide. He wasn't fazed that the body had lain in the victim’s bedroom for nineteen hours without refrigeration. Twelve hours is the safe limit otherwise Clostridium sordelli bacteria might have broken through the intestinal walls and contaminated the body.

However, business is business and Wheatley sold parts of the body to CryoLife in Georgia for $10,500. CryoLife’s cost cutting program had reduced testing for body parts bacteria, which was bad news for Brian Lukins, a patient at St. Cloud Hospital in Minnesota. He thought he was getting a simple bone transplant into his knee. So did Dr Mulawka, his surgeon.[166] The problem was the dead guy’s bone was infected by Clostridium sordelli bacteria. It entered the blood stream of Brian. He felt really bad, turned grey and then died. 

Alistair Cooke did much better. He was the famous British/American journalist who died of cancer in 2004 at the age of 95. He was dead just twenty-four hours when morgue operators were already ripping out his bones, illegally. No one knew this until police discovered Cooke’s funeral directors were involved in a stolen body parts racket. If this can happen to a famous dude like Alistair Cooke imagine what might happen to us less famous people.[167]

The United States Food and Drug Administration recently shut down body collector, Donor Referral Services in North Carolina. They said donor records did not match death certificates that listed cancer and drug use. It was a case of mutton dressed up as lamb so to speak.

The FDA and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that doctors offer hepatitis B and C, syphilis and HIV tests to those having received corpse material harvested by the company.

Phil Guvett, spokesman for Donor Referral Services has denied any wrongdoing.

Presumed Consent in Los Angeles

Governments rarely broadcast their presumed consent laws. Why panic the population who might rush to become organ keepers. Governments instead harvest body parts surreptitiously without prior permission of either the deceased or next of kin. They don't even inform relatives that harvesting took place. This quiet process was interrupted in Los Angeles when Doheny Eye and Tissue Bank was caught harvesting the corneas from the body of shooting victim, Ralph Frammolino. Ralph’s sister and parents registered their objections to donation the morning after his death, but the harvesters rose earlier and had already grabbed his corneas. They paid $250 then sold them to a transplant institution for $3400.[168]

The American states using presumed consent are California, Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

In one group questioned in Kentucky just 6.6% knew that presumed consent laws existed despite being enacted for ten years. [169]

The American Red Cross was caught stealing the bones of Arizona woman, Heather Ramirez who died in a car smash. Heather’s parents had agreed to give her eyes to an Eye Bank and heart valves, veins and skin to the Red Cross, but not her bones. The Red Cross took them anyway. An employee forged Heather’s father’s initials on a bone consent form. After this discovery the Red Cross still refused to return the bones. Greg and Lucinda Ramirez sued the Red Cross but it was not until two years after Heather’s death that the bones were returned. Red Cross spokesman Mike Fulwider said, “We are certainly deeply saddened by this,” He didn’t say whether the sadness was due to the theft of the bones or from being caught.[170]

Lack of Respect

17,500 bodies are donated for medical and research testing in the United States annually. This is on top of 5500 “brain dead” and 20,000 cardiac dead donors. The bodies donated for medical research are used by surgeons and students for practice sessions and as surgery models at conferences. Four thousand bodies go for experiments including putting heads in helmets and then dropping them from a height to test the helmet’s strength. Other bodies are strapped into cars that are smashed against walls to test air bag strength. Arms are tied to snowboards then dropped to test wrist braces. Relatives are rarely asked permission because, as Russel Sherwin of the University of Southern California says, too many objected.[171]

Funeral home owner John Vincent Scalia bought nine bodies from the Louisiana State University and the Tulane School of Medicine for which he paid the latter $8640. Scalia resold them to the United States Army for $37,485. The Army used them for testing ballistic body armour in land mine experiments.[172] The Army video of the testing could be titled, “Whatever happened to Grandpa?”

Back in 1996 the University of California Los Angeles suffered a class action by donor families whose relatives' bodies had been donated for research. The University had promised when finished with the bodies to either bury the remains or scatter the ashes after cremation in a rose garden. Donor families were unhappy when they discovered UCLA had burned them in piles alongside medical waste then sent the ashes to a landfill.[173]


“The bodies were thrown into the boiler room at the hospital,” [174]

Most people understand that China sells organs from executed prisoners to wealthy foreigners. You simply locate a broker, pay the money and fly to China. Why wait four years for a kidney when you can get one in two weeks. You undergo immunosuppressive treatment while they choose the right prisoner. Two living humans enter the surgical theatre and one comes out alive.

Harry Wu, the Chinese political activist, speaking at a conference at Berkeley’s Department of Anthropology, University of California said,

“I interviewed a doctor who routinely participated in removing kidneys from condemned prisoners…she had even participated in a surgery in which two kidneys were removed from a living anaesthetised prisoner late at night. The following morning the prisoner was executed by a bullet in the head.”[175]

Testimony is also emerging that members of the Falun Gong religious movement are the latest source of organs for the Chinese transplant industry. Young Falun Gong prisoners are allegedly initially beaten then suddenly treated like hospital patients undergoing tests. Organs are also harvested daily from prostitutes, Tibetans, political dissidents, and criminals.[176]

China doesn't have an organ donation system like the richer countries. There are rare instances of kidney donation within families plus a dozen voluntary “brain dead” donations have been performed overall, but this is from a population of 1.3 billion people. The Chinese believe that being a voluntary organ donor sounds as logical as becoming a voluntary prisoner: it doesn't make sense.


Organ selling is illegal in Australia but those caught doing it receive a paltry fine of $5000. The fines are being updated, belatedly, with little zeal. Media liaison professionals operating within government departments manage organ donation promotion activities while public servants are prohibited from speaking to the public. State governments don't promote kidney selling but quietly turn a blind eye to suspicious “donations”. As stated above, Nick Ross “donated” a kidney to his billionaire employer, Kerry Packer. The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital ethics committee approved the surgery after which Packer donated $10 million to the hospital. The hospital refurbished their kidney clinic with Packer money then named it after Nick Ross. The hospital and the New South Wales Government refuse to discuss the ethical aspects of the donation.

Australians buying organs overseas slip even further into the shadows of government minds. There hasn't been any attempt by the government to keep track of Australian organ tourists. Dr David Filby, an inter-government liaison executive in the South Australian Department of Health wrote me saying, “It is known/suspected that some Australians do travel overseas to obtain organs but details about this are scant or the subject of rumour.”[177]

Pathologists were caught in Queensland in the 1980s taking heart valves during post-mortems that were legally limited to discovering the cause of death, but not for body parts harvesting. Post-mortems have been a traditional Australian method of obtaining body parts.

Professor Margaret Allars corroborated this practice saying non-coronial post-mortems were used to illegally remove pituitary glands from corpses.[178]

The Sydney Heart Valve Bank told me their heart valves are collected from cadaver donors via “Forensic and Coroner cases”. 

Post-mortem consent forms used in hospitals often have obscure clauses buried amidst the fine print agreeing to “tissue” harvesting. Relatives in shock could easily be fooled into signing away body parts thinking the post-mortem was to discover the cause of death only.

Back in 1989 harvesters asked Mike Wynne in New South Wales for consent to remove organs from his “brain dead” nephew whose family had been killed in a car smash. Mike later said, “They didn’t bully me into it, but they sort of did what seemed like a sales pitch.” Mike consented for certain organs to be removed because the boy reputedly had wanted to be an organ donor upon death. Consent didn't include his nephew’s eyes but the hospital took them anyway. Mike discovered this when they sent him a bill for X-Rays. What most offended Mike was the reaction from the hospital. “I was treated with complete disregard afterwards,” he said. He also suspects his nephew had been moved to another hospital in preparation for harvesting rather than for treatment.[179]

The Royal Adelaide Hospital in South Australia was admonished by State Coroner Mark Johns for using organ donation as an excuse for not being able to fully investigate the death of car smash victim, Cosmo Joseph Campanella, in December 2002. The hospital claimed the cause of death could not be determined because transplanters had whipped out the evidence as Mr Campanella was an organ donor.

Coroner Johns determined that death was due to a blocked breathing tube that caused the patient to suffer a fatal heart attack and that “…the hospital’s argument might discourage future organ donation and is adverse to the public interest.”[180]

Anatomy Classes

The University of New South Wales has apologised to families of people whose bodies had been donated for anatomy classes. Allegations have risen that breasts were fondled and a head used for degrading purposes.

Chris Game, speaking for the National Tertiary Education Union, said a laboratory supervisor had long tried to alert authorities about his concerns.

The university’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Henry has denied there was a cover-up.[181]

Forensic Crime Tests

Professor Hilton repeatedly stabbed one body at the Glebe Institute of Forensic Medicine in Sydney to gain knowledge for a crime trial. Other employees belted the head of a crime victim with a hammer for investigative purposes. They also removed spinal columns for use elsewhere and performed nose jobs on bodies for practice. These were reasonable forensic and medical activities but next of kin weren't sought for permission.

Other Glebe Morgue employees stole clothing, shoes and personal affects from fresh bodies brought in from car smashes. The Morgue now employs non-doctors to remove bones from cadavers and sends them in cooler boxes to Australian Bio-technologies in Sydney for processing into bone paste and transplantable bone shapes.


The University of Heidelberg, acting on behalf of the car industry, used donated children’s bodies for crash testing instead of dummies. Dummies cost two thousand marks while bodies could be obtained from the parents for a few hundred marks.


Dr Rasheed Ahmad, an Emeritus Consultant Nephrologist from Liverpool reports in 2006:

“…I am personally aware of a regular flow of patients from the United Kingdom to the so called Renal Belt comprising of underdeveloped countries and largely with poor outcomes…”[182]


Israel is arguably the world’s leading procurer of vital organs from other countries, at least for its size. Just 3.5% of Israelis are registered organ donors. Their donor rate is one-fifth that of Europe so they acquire vital organs from other cultures.

The Jewish Diaspora provides an effective platform to broker organ purchases around the world. The Israeli government helps by paying up to $80,000 each to those visiting other countries to purchase an organ. Brokers openly advertise their services on Israeli radio stations and in newspapers.[183]

An American, “Jane Doe", describes herself as a “deeply spiritual woman”. She used an Israeli broker to buy a kidney from Alberty Jose da Silva, a 37-year-old Brazilian man from a large poverty-stricken family. They met in South Africa for the surgery where Jane got one of Alberty’s kidneys. He got $6000 though was robbed of it upon returning to Brazil. South African police later closed down this organ-selling racket.[184]

Professor Nancy Scheper-Hughes, in her statement to the Committee on international relations, House of Representatives in the United States Congress described another racket,

“Dr. Zaki Shapira, head of transplant services at Bellinson Medical Center near Tel Aviv...has been operating as a transplant outlaw since the early 1990s when he first used intermediaries and Arab brokers to locate kidney sellers amongst [cash]-strapped Palestinian workers in Gaza and the West Bank...Meanwhile, human rights groups in the West Bank complained to me of tissue and organs stealing of slain Palestinians by Israeli pathologists at the national Israeli legal medical institute in Tel Aviv... in the late 1990s, Shapira [Dr Zaki Shapira of Israel] simply moved his illicit practice overseas to Turkey and to countries in Eastern Europe where the considerable economic chaos of the past decade has created parallel markets in bodies for sex and bodies for kidneys.”

"Dr. Michael Friedlander, chief nephrologist at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, tired of reports about commercialization of kidneys in Israel, decided, like Dr. Diflo, to speak out, and he says that among his recovering international transplant patients are several Israelis who have recently returned this year and last from the United States with kidneys purchased here from living donors.”

"In March of 2001, I interviewed in Israel two men, one a young student and the other a retired civil servant, who had both returned to Jerusalem from transplant units in Baltimore and New York City, each with a brand new purchased kidney.”[185], [186]
Palestinians give organs of son killed by Israeli soldiers to four Jews and two Arabs.

Twelve-year-old Ahmed Katib was walking to a shop in the Jenin Refugee Camp on the West Bank on November 3, 2005 to buy a tie for a wedding that evening. He became involved in stone throwing at Israeli soldiers involved in a gun battle with Palestinian snipers and an Israeli soldier shot Ahmed in the head and stomach.

His parents, Ismael and Abla agreed to donate the vital organs of the mortally injured Ahmed and he was taken to an Israeli hospital where his lungs, liver, heart and kidneys were removed.

A Druze Arab girl got his heart, a Bedouin boy got a kidney and four Jews got his lungs, liver and the other kidney.

The father of the four-year-old Jewish girl who got one of Ahmed’s kidneys said he wished it could have come from a Jew and not an Arab.[187]

Is organ harvesting a spoil of war?

Organ removal is government retribution against criminals and dissidents in China. Has organ harvesting from defeated enemies become a spoil of war in the Middle East?

West Bank, 8th of February 1988

Nineteen years old Khader Elias Tarazi, a Christian Palestinian, went shopping for groceries in the Gaza. Upon returning with two bags on his bicycle he crossed a road near a demonstration where stone throwers were fleeing Israeli Army soldiers. The soldiers grabbed Khader and beat his head and body with truncheons. Shopkeepers shouted that Khader wasn’t involved but soldiers broke one of Khader’s arms and a leg. They continued the beating then threw him onto the bonnet of their jeep handcuffing the now unconscious Khader to the front crash bar. They drove off continually braking hard whereupon he sustained further injuries including a broken back, skull injuries and his face kept banging against the bonnet.

The Israeli doctor at the Military Prison in Gaza refused to attend Khader because of his serious injuries and inadequate paperwork. He was taken to Ansar Two prison and thrown into a prisoner tent holding thirty to forty prisoners. The other Palestinian prisoners screamed that he must be taken to hospital and the guards responded by forcing them to strip naked and stand outside in the winter cold. Khader died in the tent and later was taken to Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva and pronounced dead.

Khader’s mother was outside the prison where Israeli officials denied they had a prisoner by his name inside. Later, they admitted he was inside but said he must have been very sick when he went out shopping because he was now dead.

Israeli officials refused to hand over the body and it was transferred to Abu Kabeer hospital, officially for a post-mortem. Mrs Tarazi told David Yallop that during this time many of his organs were illegally removed from his body.

No inquiry was made into the death and the Tarazi family were told if they continued to ask for an inquiry they would be looking for trouble. Five months later soldiers and secret police visited the Tarazi house at midnight, beat up Khader’s brother and father and threw the former into Ansar Three prison.[188]

2nd of April, 1988

Twenty-three year old Salim Khalef Al Shaer, of Bethlehem, joined a Saturday demonstration against the Israelis. One soldier shot him in the face from fifteen metres. To stop the Israeli soldiers taking the body for organ removal his friends rushed the body to the closest mosque and called for the family. The funeral service began immediately. When the procession came out of the mosque for its trip to the gravesite the Army was waiting. Helicopters dropped teargas canisters and large stones onto the mourners. Ninety minutes after walking out of his house Salim was buried in his grave.[189]

West Bank, 30th of October, 1988

When Roman Catholic Palestinians were leaving mass they were confronted by the Israeli Army and began throwing stones. Nineteen-year old Iyad Bishara Abu Saada was killed by a plastic bullet that cut an abdominal artery. The same grim chase for the body entailed. The mourners eluded the Israelis and Iyad was buried a few hours later. Somewhat predictably the Israelis fired teargas canisters into the family home four days later. Mrs Saada told David Yallop the practice of removing organs was common and named Arab and Israeli hospitals where she said organs were removed. She said doctors, accompanied by soldiers, offered large amounts of money to parents of the killed.[190]

Moldavia and India

Various suburbs and villages in India and Moldavia specialise in kidney selling where “donors” will be lured to hospitals or clinics away from their homes. They may be promised two thousand American dollars or complex surgery to remedy another ailment. After the kidney harvest the seller may not get full payment and usually won’t be treated for any post-harvest complications.

The Israeli government organises Moldavians to travel to Turkey where doctors harvest one of their kidneys for insertion into a waiting Israeli citizen.

Some Indian cities specialise in supplying Arab organ buyers while other cities cater for rich Asian customers. Most participants get substantial rewards from the process except the peasants who provide their organs. Like the Moldavians some end up with little money and suffer health problems that interest neither the harvesters nor the organ recipients.


Four doctors were charged with attempted organ theft at Moscow City Hospital No 20, after police found the “donor” lying on a harvest table with his hands tied behind his neck. The victim’s heart was beating and he had normal blood pressure. There wasn't a death certificate but the “donor", Mr A Orekhov, later died.[191]

[163] Scheper-Hughes, Nancy; Organ Watch at the University of California, Berkeley http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/biotech/organswatch/

Accessed 5 May 2007

[164] Goodwin, Michele. Black Markets: The supply and demand of body parts. Cambridge University Press, New York, U.S.A. 2006 p58, 64-74 http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521852803

Accessed 5 May 2007

[165] British Medical Journal. Police uncover large scale organ trafficking in Punjab, Sanjay Kumar, New Delhi. BMJ 2003;326:180 ( 25 January )


Accessed 5 May 2007

[166]Cheney, Annie. Body Brokers: inside the underground trade in human remains. Broadway Books, New York, U.S.A. 2006 p 189 http://www.randomhouse.com/broadway/catalog/results.pperl?title_auth_isbn=annie+cheney&x=12&y=9

Accessed 5 May 2007

[167] Telegraph Newspaper, United Kingdom 23 December 2005. www.telegraph.co.uk

[168] Goodwin, Michele. Black Markets: The supply and demand of body parts. Cambridge University Press, New York, U.S.A. 2006 p117-119 http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521852803

Accessed 5 May 2007

[169] Goodwin, Michele. Black Markets: The supply and demand of body parts. Cambridge University Press, New York, U.S.A. 2006 p 125 http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521852803

Accessed 5 May 2007

[170] Campbell, Ronald, Heisel, William and Katches, Mark. Orange County Register Newspaper, California. U.S.A. Body Broker Series. April16-20, 2000. www.ocregister.com/features/body/index.shtml

Accessed 5 May 2007

[171] Campbell, Ronald, Heisel, William and Katches, Mark. Orange County Register Newspaper, California. U.S.A. Body Broker Series. April16-20, 2000. www.ocregister.com/features/body/index.shtml

Accessed 5 May 2007

[172] Cheney, Annie. Body Brokers: inside the underground trade in human remains. Broadway Books, New York, U.S.A. 2006 p 149-153 http://www.randomhouse.com/broadway/catalog/results.pperl?title_auth_isbn=annie+cheney&x=12&y=9

Accessed 5 May 2007 

[173] Cheney, Annie. Body Brokers: inside the underground trade in human remains. Broadway Books, New York, U.S.A. 2006 p 146 http://www.randomhouse.com/broadway/catalog/results.pperl?title_auth_isbn=annie+cheney&x=12&y=9 

Accessed 5 May 2007

[174] Matas, David; Kilgour, David. Report into allegations of organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in China. 6 July 2006 

Download their report as a pdf file

Accessed 8 May 2007

[176] Matas, David; Kilgour, David. Report into allegations of organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in China. 6 July 2006 

Download their report as a pdf file 

Accessed 8 May 2007

[177] Dr David Filby. Executive Director, Policy and Intergovernment Relations, Department of Health, South Australian Government. Personal correspondence with the author. 1 November 2006:

[178] Allars, Margaret. Inquiry into the use of Pituitary Derived Hormones in Australia and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, Australian Govt Publishing Services, Canberra, Australia. 1994.

[179] Healey, Kaye, Editor, Organ Transplants, Spinney Press, Balmain, New South Wales, Australia. 1996

[180] Australian Broadcasting Corporation http://abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200608/s1718577.htm:

Friday, August 18, 2006. 3:48pm (AEST)

Accessed 8 May 2007

[181] The Adelaide Advertiser. Adelaide, South Australia. 7 February 2007. p 25:

www.news.com.au/adelaidenow :

[182] Ahmad, Rasheed MB; MSc; FRCP. Emeritus Consultant Nephrologist ‘Shalamar’, Woolton Park, Liverpool L25 6DU

Accessed 8 May 2007

[183] Goodwin, Michele. Black Markets: The supply and demand of body parts. Cambridge University Press, New York, U.S.A. 2006 p188 http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521852803 :

Accessed 8 May 2007:

[184] Goodwin, Michele. Black Markets: The supply and demand of body parts. Cambridge University Press, New York, U.S.A. 2006 p187-189 http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521852803

Accessed 8 May 2007:

[185] Scheper-Hughes, Nancy; Organ Watch at the University of California, Berkeley http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/biotech/organswatch

Accessed 8 May 2007

La Stampa,

26 November, 1993. 

WASHINGTON : 73­452PS2001
FIRST SESSION JUNE 27, 2001 Serial No. 107­2:

[186] South African doctors charged with involvement in organ trade

British Medical Journal. :

BMJ2004;329:190 (24 July), doi:10.1136/bmj.329.7459.190-a:

http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/329/7459/190-a  :

Accessed 8 May 2007

[187] Hearts and Minds. Christine Toomey. The Weekend Australian Magazine. Published by Nationwide News Pty Ltd. July 22-23 2006:

[188] Yallop, David; To the Ends of the Earth. Jonathan Cape, London 1993 p286-288. 295-,297.:

[189] Yallop, David; To the Ends of the Earth. Jonathan Cape, London 1993 p286-288. 295-297:

[190] Yallop, David; To the Ends of the Earth. Jonathan Cape, London 1993 p286-288. 295-297:

[191] Doctors charged with planning to kill a patient for his kidneys. Andrew Osborn. British Medical Journal BMJ2004;328:1092 (8 May), doi:10.1136/bmj.328.7448.1092-a http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/328/7448/1092-a

Accessed 8 May 2007:

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