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Reuters Health Information (2005-09-28): LA hospital suspends liver transplants in scandal

Ethics

LA hospital suspends liver transplants in scandal

Last Updated: 2005-09-28 11:00:26 -0400 (Reuters Health)

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Los Angeles hospital on Tuesday suspended its liver transplant program after allowing a Saudi patient to jump to the top of the waiting list and falsifying data to cover it up.

St. Vincent Medical Center said that two of its chief liver transplant surgeons had been fired and that it had launched a thorough investigation.

"This event appears to involve an individual who received a liver that was designated for transplantation in another patient," said Gus Valdespino, chief executive officer of St. Vincent Medical Center, which runs one of the largest organ transplant centers in California.

"Any breach of integrity regarding established transplantation procedures is unacceptable," Valdespino said.

The incident involved a 2003 transplant that was paid for by the Saudi Arabian Embassy and given to a Saudi patient who was in 52nd place on the liver transplant list.

Valdespino said the Saudi Embassy paid the $339,000 cost of the operation and hospital stay -- a figure 25 percent to 30 percent higher than the cost typically paid by U.S. insurance companies.

The identity of the patient was not revealed but officials said it appeared that the scheduled recipient, also a Saudi, was out of town when a matching liver became available. The team at St. Vincent transplanted the liver into a different Saudi national rather than following established procedure and sending the liver to the next highest suitable donor, who was at a nearby medical center.

Falsified records were subsequently submitted to the national agency that regulates transplants in the United States. The incident was discovered only after a recent routine audit by that agency.

The hospital has 75 patients currently on its waiting list and was contacting them on Tuesday to discuss options at other transplant centers.

St. Vincent said it deeply regretted the impact on patients of both the incident and the decision to suspend its liver transplant program but said it had no choice given a lack of qualified surgeons.

 
 
 
 
                 
 
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