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Pennsylvania Hospital Suspends Its Liver Transplant Program

U.S.Pennsylvania Hospital Suspends Its Liver Transplant Program

A major Pennsylvania hospital shut down its liver transplant program last week, becoming the second medical center this month to take such an unusual step.

The hospital, the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, said Monday that it had closed the program and submitted to a review from federal officials. “The decision to inactivate comes after concerns about clinical processes and documentation were identified,” the hospital said in a statement.

It was unclear what specific problems prompted the closure. But in interviews with The New York Times, six current and former employees said that staffers had raised several concerns about the program, including that it regularly declined available organs, potentially keeping people on the waiting list from receiving lifesaving transplants. Hospital officials would not comment about those accusations.

The Hershey closure comes just weeks after Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston suspended its liver and kidney transplant programs. That hospital told The Times that it believed that one of its doctors had manipulated records to make some of his own patients ineligible to receive new livers.

The back-to-back closures are a shock to a transplant system in which programs rarely go offline because of performance problems. There are 142 active liver transplant programs in the United States, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, the federal contractor that oversees the country’s transplant system and is investigating the problems at Hershey Medical Center.

“To have it happen twice very quickly is very unusual,” said Dr. Seth Karp, who is a transplant surgeon at Vanderbilt University and a former member of the transplant system’s committee that looks into potential wrongdoing.

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