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Human organs up for the highest bidder
September 27, 2005 2:51 PM   Subscribe

Some members of the staff at a major L.A. hospital gave a Saudi patient a liver transplant despite his being far down the waiting list, and then falsified the records to pretend they had actually given it to the person who was next in line. That person never got a liver. Foreign patients have to pay full price for transplants; U.S. citizens get a number of discounts, so the hospitals make less money.
posted by Vallenwood (27 comments total)

 
The original LA Times story, with a lot more detail than the AP. For one thing, it's not at all clear that "that person never got a liver". No one seems to be willing to say, presumably due to medical privacy laws. But remember they only moved one spot down the list, after all.
posted by smackfu at 3:04 PM on September 27, 2005


Sounds like somebody is due for a firing.
posted by teece at 3:09 PM on September 27, 2005


When you mix medicine with money, who can be surprised by the outcome?
posted by vorfeed at 3:09 PM on September 27, 2005


vorfeed: Has medicine and money have been separate in the US?
posted by xmutex at 3:10 PM on September 27, 2005


Jeeesus christ. Sorry about that grammar.

In other words: Have medicine and money ever been separate in the US?
posted by xmutex at 3:10 PM on September 27, 2005


It's worth noting that the hospital noticed the discrepency in an audit of its own records, and the doctors responsible were fired in short order. So this certainly isn't a matter of policy.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:12 PM on September 27, 2005


Vallenwood posted "Foreign patients have to pay full price for transplants; U.S. citizens get a number of discounts, so the hospitals make less money."

It's also worth noting that this isn't exactly what the article says. Patients who are covered by health insurance get a discounted price. There are plenty of foreign nationals (mostly permanent residents of the U.S.) who are covered by U.S. health insurance policies. Also, only 5% of organs donated in the U.S. can go to foreign nationals.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:17 PM on September 27, 2005


But remember they only moved one spot down the list, after all.

The LA Times piece says that the rightful donor was removed from the waiting list.

Which seems weird, because you'd think if you were removed from a waiting list that you were at the top of, you'd scream bloody murder, and that that would be the reason this whole thing would be brought to the public's attention, instead of an audit 2 years after the fact.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:21 PM on September 27, 2005


Oh yeah, Patient A was removed from the list. The rightful donor was the guy in UCLA, though, who no one knows the current status of.

Patient A didn't get the liver because he was "out of town". Although that part is really fishy, since he just happens to also be a Saudi national. Maybe he or his surviving family has a few million reasons to shut up.
posted by smackfu at 3:26 PM on September 27, 2005


... this isn't exactly what the article says. Patients who are covered by health insurance get a discounted price. There are plenty of foreign nationals (mostly permanent residents of the U.S.) who are covered by U.S. health insurance policies. - mr_roboto

Also, US citizens that do NOT have health insurance pay a higher price for services than insurance companies pay for the same services.
posted by raedyn at 3:29 PM on September 27, 2005


Can I just say I'm pretty goddamned tired of Saudis with their hijackers, cutting off of hands, and solid-gold Rolls Royces? I yearn for the day when 50% of the population there are royals and the whole fucking house of cards collapses.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:31 PM on September 27, 2005


I believe you just did.
posted by odinsdream at 3:33 PM on September 27, 2005


Why is everyone so upset about the livers?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:35 PM on September 27, 2005


I've always been told that you could just take a good-sized slice of liver and that it would grow into a whole organ with time. I guess that was wrong? because otherwise you'd think there would be plenty to go around...
posted by clevershark at 3:38 PM on September 27, 2005


clevershark, no, you're right it will happen but the resultant liver will be self-aware and will demand to be allowed to unionize and you definitely don't want your organs organized against you.
posted by fenriq at 3:48 PM on September 27, 2005


Mmmm. Liver.
posted by tkchrist at 4:31 PM on September 27, 2005


So because of whatever happened, rather than risk the chance that another person will get to cut in line while they investigate they simply suspend the whole program putting everyboy on the waiting list in greater danger?

Does that make sense?

As for whether why the person who should have been first wouldn't have been screaming bloody murder this paragraph seems to explain:

When an organ becomes available, after a donor dies, the patients are then ranked. A regional transplant coordinator tries to find someone who matches the donor's blood type, and also factors in medical urgency, waiting time and the geographical distance between the donor and the recipient.

This would indicate that the potential donors are reranked with every available organ. If so, do they notify you that an organ became available but that you were #2-75 on the list? I'm assuming not, how stressful would it be to know you came in #2? The horrifying thing would be if Patient A were taken off the list for having received a liver, but Patient A and the medical team working with Patient A were just sitting patiently by hoping their name would come up #1 on an organ all the while unaware they weren't even in the hopper any more.
posted by obfusciatrist at 4:35 PM on September 27, 2005


Has anyone here considered that maybe if we created a market for organs in which victim's families could actually be compensated for organ donation we might not have to worry about an organ shortage?
posted by pjdoland at 5:06 PM on September 27, 2005


And how do you know that Patient A's family wasn't compensated? It's already been implied earlier that he was not only a Saudi but never made a peep, and there's no news. He could have even been a "place holder" for the royal guy who finally got the liver.
posted by infini at 5:40 PM on September 27, 2005


Has anyone here considered that maybe if we created a market for organs in which victim's families could actually be compensated for organ donation we might not have to worry about an organ shortage?

Boy that's a great idea. I'm sure it's never even come up before. And I couldn't possibly imagine ever having ethical concerns over paying for organs.
posted by drpynchon at 8:33 PM on September 27, 2005


infini, I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking that. It would be totally in character for a Saudi royal to hire an "impoverished Bedouin" to hold a place for him, then conveniently disappear.

Has anyone here considered that maybe if we created a market for organs in which victim's families could actually be compensated for organ donation we might not have to worry about an organ shortage?

Beward the moral hazard.
posted by dhartung at 8:39 PM on September 27, 2005


There is such a thing as a "living donor" liver transplant. They can also split a cadaver liver and get a two for one transplant. If I am ever in need of an orgen I want that organ to be a liver.
posted by whatever at 9:15 PM on September 27, 2005


Those responsible should not only be fired, but imprisoned as well. And their entire estates forfeited.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:18 PM on September 27, 2005


... interesting, I thought most rich people just went to Taiwan to buy some executed Chinese prisoners organ on demand. Hell the method they use to kill the prisoner changes depending on the organ you need.

Seems odd that they'd sit on a list waiting if they had the cash to just buy someone's liver.
posted by Talanvor at 2:51 AM on September 28, 2005


And how do you know that Patient A's family wasn't compensated?

The only compensation they needed (and rightfully should have had) was that liver. This is disgusting.
posted by amberglow at 5:20 AM on September 28, 2005


Paging Larry Niven, white courtesy telephone, please...
posted by alumshubby at 5:34 AM on September 28, 2005


Which seems weird, because you'd think if you were removed from a waiting list that you were at the top of, you'd scream bloody murder, and that that would be the reason this whole thing would be brought to the public's attention, instead of an audit 2 years after the fact.

I suppose if you died because you didn't get the liver transplant, you probably wouldn't be complaining...
posted by davejay at 11:51 AM on September 28, 2005


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