In a tale that sounds like a lurid tabloid headline, the British family of Christopher Rochester, killed in an accidental fall from an apartment balcony in Rhodes last year, is threatening legal action against Greece because their son's body was returned minus a kidney.
The Chester-Le-Street Advertiser, the newspaper in Rochester's home town in England, reports that Rochester was in Rhodes with his brother Keith, a disc jockey at the popular resort town of Faliraki. He was working as a bar manager when he was killed on June 11th, 2000, just four days after arriving in Rhodes.
Though he was injured in the 40-foot fall, British medical tests indicate that the wounds should not have been fatal. Attending paramedics told the still-conscious Rochester that he had just received a "bad bang" on the head for which he later received several stitches. But less than three hours later, he was dead. When the missing kidney was reported to Greek medical authorities, a kidney was sent to Britain several months later. However, DNA testing showed that the kidney received was not Rochester's.
Generally, Rhodes enjoys the same excellent visitor-safety record as the rest of Greece. At the hospital in Rhodes, Rochester's brother Keith was initially asked to identify someone else's body. All of his brother's clothes were missing, and he was told a kidney had been removed for a toxicology test.
Chester-le-Street Minister of Parliament Giles Radice is calling for a full inquiry by the pertinent Greek authorities. In the meantime, British hospitals are scrambling to deal with their own missing-organ scandal affecting thousands of families.
While some are asking if the "missing" kidney somehow fell into the hands of black market organ dealers, there is no evidence that it was removed for anything but the toxicology testing.
Rhodes tourism has suffered several blows lately, with a death of a bungee jumper due to inadequate straps, and incidents involving tourists preying on each other. The party atmosphere in Faliraki, always active, is attracting more and more students on summer break, many of whom work and play all summer long.
A webpage on Faliraki listed "a drunken stupid state" and "crawling home drunk" as two "in" things to do, while "staying sober" and "taxi home early" were on the "out" list for summer 2000. Ironically, Rochester was partying with friends and his brother when he did leave early to return to his nearby apartment.
While exactly what happened, both before and after Rochester's accident, is still unclear, it's always good advice for travelers to remain alert and aware of their surroundings, which may mean turning down that final drink or two. Just the uneven pavements in Greece can bring down a tipsy tourist. Medical care for trauma injuries, while good in Greece, is not always nearby and there may be delays in reaching care when traveling outside major cities and towns. As anyone who drives in Greece knows, even an ambulance can only go so fast on the dark curving roads. Better to avoid needing one if you can.
Update: in 2011, as part of the ongoing legal disputes, Greek authorities insisted on the exhumation of Rochester's body for additional DNA testing as they do not accept that the kidney returned to the family was not Rochester's.