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Reuters Health Information (2003-11-18): Illinois hospital settles organ transplant suit


Illinois hospital settles organ transplant suit

Last Updated: 2003-11-18 12:12:42 -0400 (Reuters Health)

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The University of Illinois Hospital paid $2 million on Monday to settle a lawsuit that charged it and two other school-affiliated hospitals with manipulating patients' diagnoses to get them new livers.

The "whistle-blower" suit, originally brought by transplant specialist Dr. Raymond Pollak in 1999, said the hospitals diagnosed patients as sicker than they were to boost the number of transplants performed at the institutions and qualify them for government reimbursement programs.

In July, federal and state prosecutors announced that the University of Chicago Hospitals and Northwestern Memorial Hospital had paid fines of $115,000 and $23,587, respectively, to settle the suit without admitting or denying guilt.

After saying it would fight the lawsuit, which involved four transplant patients between 1996 and 1998, the University of Illinois Hospital approved the settlement, which does not require it to admit or deny guilt, prosecutors said.

Pollak received a quarter of the settlement proceeds, and his lawyers were paid nearly $300,000 by the university.

"This settlement for twice the amount of actual damages sends a clear message to health care providers that they will be held accountable for defrauding government payment programs," Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said in a statement.

"By falsely diagnosing patients and placing them in intensive care to make them appear more sick than they were, patients eligible for liver transplants were placed ahead of others who were waiting for organs in the transplant region."

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