Report: Over 30 Died Awaiting Transplants Hospital Shunned

More than 30 patients died waiting for liver transplants while the understaffed University of California Irvine Medical Center turned down organs, a published report said.

The hospital received 122 liver offers between August 2004 and July 2005 but transplanted just 12, the Los Angeles Times said, citing a report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services obtained through Freedom of Information laws.

Though failing to meet federal standards, including the minimum annual transplants since 2002, the hospital maintained its accreditation from the United Network for Organ Sharing, the newspaper said.

The hospital has not had a full-time liver transplant surgeon since July 2004, despite federal standards that require one to be constantly available.

A full-time surgeon will join the hospital in early 2006, said Dr. David Imagawa, who oversees the liver transplant program.

"We agree that there were some problems, and we're moving forward to change them," said Imagawa, who founded the transplant program, left in 2002 and resumed oversight in July.

The federal review was sparked by a complaint by a former patient, Elodie Irvine, who developed large cysts on her liver and kidneys.

The hospital turned down 38 livers and 57 kidneys offered for her between 1998 and 2002, according to a log from the United Network for Organ Sharing. Offers stopped coming in 2002, because the hospital did not submit required information to the national group that oversees transplants.

"They led me to believe that there were no offers," said Irvine, 51. "They left me to die."

She finally received a transplant at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and settled a lawsuit against UCI Medical Center earlier this year.

Imagawa acknowledged the hospital made mistakes in Irvine's case but said the organs offered for her were "not suitable for someone without life-threatening emergency."