St. Vincent Medical Center, Los Angeles, is ending its liver transplant program after officials acknowledged in September that doctors violated national standards by giving an organ to a man who was not among the neediest patients.
Continuing investigations into the 2003 transplant, the challenges of rebuilding the program and competitive pressures led to the decision, St. Vincent President and Chief Executive Officer Gus Valdespino told the Los Angeles Times. Valdespino said the federal government dealt the program a potentially crippling blow by withdrawing its certification, making it ineligible to receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements for liver transplants.
Doctors performed the transplant on a Saudi Arabian citizen who was No. 52 on a transplant list that covers much of Southern California and is prioritized by who is sickest and who has been waiting the longest. Hospital staff then falsified documents to try to cover up the action, Valdespino said.
A St. Vincent patient who was at the top of the list for a liver but did not receive one subsequently died, the Times reported.
The 75 patients currently on St. Vincent's liver transplant waiting list will be shifted to lists maintained by other area hospitals, officials said.
St. Vincent, which has one of the largest transplant programs in California, has not found any problems in other areas and will continue to transplant kidneys, pancreases and hearts, he said. It has terminated its contracts with the two surgeons who led the liver transplant program. A lawyer for former program director Richard Lopez Jr., M.D., has declined to comment and an attorney for former assistant director Hector Ramos, M.D., has said her client did nothing wrong.