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