U.S. Senator Calls for More Information on UCLA Liver Transplants
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he would seek more information from UCLA after reports that Japanese organized crime figures made significant donations to UCLA Medical Center after undergoing liver transplants, the Los Angeles Times reports.
A Times investigation found that four men with ties to organized crime groups in Japan underwent transplants at UCLA between 2000 and 2004.
Two of the suspected men each donated $100,000 to UCLA after their surgeries. There was a marked shortage of organs at the time of the transplants to the alleged crime figures, according to the Times.
There is no evidence that UCLA or Ronald Busuttil, the surgeon who performed all four of the transplants, knew at the time of the surgeries that any of the patients had criminal records or were involved with Japanese gangs.
Moreover, U.S. rules for transplants do not bar transplants to people with criminal records and permit transplants for a limited number of foreign nationals.
Grassley -- ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees federal hospital funds -- said that if the transplant system "doesn't have credibility, we're not going to have people donate organs."
Some health care stakeholders said they were worried the surgeries would discourage people from donating organs, while others said that there should not be a problem because so few organs go to foreigners or criminals, the Times reports (Ornstein/Glionna, Los Angeles Times, 5/31).
On Friday, KPCC's "Air Talk" included a discussion of the transplant case at UCLA. The segment includes comments from:
- Arthur Caplan, a medical ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania;
- Tom Mone, CEO of OneLegacy, the federally designated organ procurement agency; and
- Charles Ornstein, co-author of the Times report on the issue (Mantle, "Air Talk," KPCC, 5/30).