Cutting in front of a supermarket checkout line may prompt some angry stares and even a few harsh words from fellow shoppers. Improperly cutting in front of an entire liver transplant waiting list, however, will likely have far more dire consequences; someone will probably die.
In a story that can only make you wonder what the doctors involved could have been thinking, the Associated Press is reporting that a California hospital has been sanctioned by the United Network for Organ Sharing for improperly arranging for a Saudi man to skip to the top of the liver transplant waiting list.
The public sanction was the first of its kind issued by the transplant organization and came after St. VincentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Medical Center in Los Angeles admitted that, in 2003, its doctors had improperly arranged for the man to bypass a higher priority patient who had waited his turn and was at the top of the list.
The patient who should have received the next available liver was also removed from the waiting list by the hospital without being told. The rightful recipient later died.
In 2005, the Los Angeles Times called attention to St. VincentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s organ transplant program because of an excessively high death rate among its patients.
At that time, the hospital had one of the busiest kidney transplant programs in the United States. Apparently, it also has a death rate above far above the national average.
The L.A. Times reported that 36 people who received kidney transplants at St. VincentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s between January 2002 and June 2004 died within a year of surgery. That number was 15 more than would be expected. A claim that the hospitalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s survival rate was above average was removed from its Web site after a reporter questioned it.
Hospital officials responded to the report by suggesting one reason for the high death rate was that St. VincentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s takes patients who are older, poorer, and sicker than average. They also claimed that since many of its patients speak little English, they may be less likely to follow doctors’ instructions after surgery. The hospital also uses about 25% more substandard kidneys than many other hospitals.
The sanction by the United Network for Organ Sharing requires St. VincentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s to notify some 4,000 current patients of the disciplinary action. The hospital may continue taking on new patients and is not precluded from performing transplant surgeries.
Since the transplant organization did not believe any patients were in immediate danger, it did not seek a suspension of the hospitalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s remaining transplant programs from federal regulatory authorities. St. Vincent had closed its liver transplant program in November of 2005.
St. VincentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s intends to challenge the sanction in court claiming the action is unjustified since the hospital is currently in compliance with the relevant standards applicable to its heart, kidney, and pancreas transplant programs.
According to the AP report, most Ã¢â‚¬Å“private insurers have already removed St. Vincent from their lists of preferred providers or stopped referring patients there.Ã¢â‚¬Â
(Sources: Associated Press; Los Angeles Times; newsinferno.com Archives)