Reuters Health Information (2003-07-29): Chicago hospitals accused of transplant fraud
Chicago hospitals accused of transplant fraud
Last Updated: 2003-07-29 14:14:07 -0400 (Reuters Health)
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Three Chicago hospitals were accused of fraud by prosecutors on Monday for manipulating diagnoses of transplant patients to get them new livers.
Two of the institutions paid fines to settle the charges.
The University of Chicago Hospitals and Northwestern Memorial Hospital paid fines of $115,000 and $23,587, respectively, without admitting or denying guilt in the "whistle-blower" suits initiated by a transplant specialist.
The University of Illinois Hospital was sued for $3 million.
"By falsely diagnosing patients and placing them in intensive care to make them appear more sick than they were, these three highly regarded medical centers made patients eligible for liver transplants ahead of others who were waiting for organs in the transplant region," said Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
"Organ donation can be a matter of life and death. There is no room for fraud when it comes to deciding which patient receives an organ," Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in the joint statement.
Some patients were hospitalized in intensive care or given a more urgent transplant status to make them eligible for precious livers from organ donors.
The suit against the University of Illinois hospital said the improper diagnoses were used to meet the minimum number of liver transplants to qualify for government health insurance programs.
Donated livers are in short supply, with nearly 20,000 Americans awaiting new ones and roughly 5,000 transplants performed each year. The United Network for Organ Sharing draws up regional lists based on patient need and other factors.
The cases grew out of a 1999 lawsuit filed by transplant specialist Dr. Raymond Pollack, who will share in the fine proceeds.