Doctor allegedly manipulated organ transplant lists


GERMAN MEDICAL authorities are investigating a consultant for allegedly altering medical records to push patients to the top of organ transplant lists.

At least 25 of the doctor’s patients are suspected of having received transplant organs in this way, with further cases under investigation.

The case, raised at a meeting of the German Transplantation Society in Berlin, has been described as one of the worst cases of transplant corruption in German history.

The unnamed doctor at the Göttingen university clinic, said to be a leading figure in the transplant world, allegedly bumped his patients to the top of lists, ahead of sicker people, by making them appear more ill on paper than they were in reality.

Questions began to be asked about the consultant’s practices when it emerged that he had performed a liver transplant on a Russian citizen.

An investigation revealed the consultant had forged documents to allow the operation to go ahead on a patient not from one of the eight-country Eurotransplant system, of which Germany is a member.

That inquiry, followed by an anonymous tip-off, led to a full investigation of his operations. This revealed that the doctor systematically represented the patients as sicker than they were. Those with liver problems were given fictional kidney problems, a practice exposed by inconsistent falsification of data.

Prof Hans Lilie, who chairs the German Medical Association’s organ transplant commission, said officials at this week’s Berlin meeting were “very emotional” when the scale of the probe was revealed.

The ongoing investigation had yet to reveal whether or not the fraud had resulted in rightful organ recipients dying on waiting lists.

“It’s possible that the longer waiting time did not affect patients from one to 14 but perhaps patient 15,” Prof Lilie told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

According to the newspaper, the Göttingen clinic’s liver transplant rate jumped from none to 50 annually – high by German hospital standards – after the consultant’s arrival. Investigators say it is unlikely just one person, rather than a network of people, was involved in the transplant fraud.

The consultant in question is now the subject of a criminal investigation. Several homes have been raided and files have been seized.

The consultant was removed from his post after the allegations arose. The Braunschweig state prosecutor is investigating him on charges including corruption.

It was the second time the consultant was accused of misusing organs from the Eurotransplant system, which operates in central Europe. Seven years ago, while working at a hospital in Regensburg, a liver he claimed was destined for a local patient ended up in a patient in Jordan.

Investigators says he apologised, the charges were dropped and he moved to the clinic in Göttingen.

News of the scandal comes at a disastrous time for the organ transplant sector. A new law has just come into effect in Germany obliging health insurers to ask their customers regularly to consider donating their organs after death.