Doctors suspended over suspected falsified dialysis records

Fri, Jan 4, 2013, 00:00

A Leipzig hospital has suspended two doctors and a manager suspected of falsifying medical records of their patients to promote them up transplant waiting lists.

Some 37 patients at the Leipzig university clinic were listed incorrectly as needing dialysis to improve their chances of receiving a new liver, according to Saxon state prosecutors.

The clinic has confirmed the suspensions, opening a fresh chapter in a long-running transplant scandal in Germany.

Reports of manipulated patient records in other German hospitals prompted the Leipzig clinic to conduct its own investigation of 182 transplants carried out in 2010 and 2011.

Records cross-checked

When investigators cross-checked the transplant lists with patient records, only 17 of the total 54 claimed to have kidney failure were actually undergoing dialysis.

Prof Wolfgang Fleig, medical director of the Leipzig University Clinic, said it could not be ruled out that the doctors accepted bribes for manipulating patient records and carrying out the transplants.

Last July, it emerged that a consultant in Göttingen was under investigation for altering records of at least 25 patients to make them appear more sick than they were, bumping them to the top of transplant lists.

An investigation revealed that the consultant had also forged documents to perform a transplant on a patient from Russia, outside the eight-country Eurotransplant system of which Germany is a member.

Further investigation revealed that the consultant’s arrival in Göttingen saw the liver transplant rate jump from zero to 50 annually – high by German hospital standards.

In all, 10 transplant centres in Germany have been investigated and suspicious cases uncovered so far in Munich and Regensburg.

Investigators say a network of people rather than separate individuals were most likely involved in the transplant fraud.

Further cases

“The investigating commission is examining some 140 transplant programmes and we anticipate further cases will come to light in the course of the investigation,” said Frank Ulrich Montgomery, president of the German Medical Association.

News of the scandal comes at a disastrous time for Germany’s organ transplant sector. A law came into effect in Germany last year obliging health insurers to ask their customers regularly to consider donating their organs after death to aid the 12,000 people on transplant waiting lists.

However, since the transplant scandal broke in July, the German organ transplant foundation has noted a drop in organ donation rates, with donations in October down to 60 from a monthly average of 100.