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Germany in organ donor scandal

8th January 2013

Authorities in Germany are probing a scandal after allegations emerged that a doctor manipulated an organ donor waiting list.


German medicine has been rocked by the news, which prompted the suspension of three doctors at the organ transplant centre attached to the university clinic in the former east German city of Leipzig.

According to local media reports, as many as 38 patients may have been bumped up the waiting list for a new liver.

They are believed to have been wrongly identified as dialysis cases to give them priority over others.

Experts say that growing competition between transplant centres may be to blame.

Another factor exacerbating competition for organs is the worldwide shortage of donors.

According to Wolfgang Fleig, director of the board of the Leipzig clinic, it is possible that money was involved in the prioritisation of cases.

The allegations relate to manipulations carried out mostly in 2010 and 2011, and involving liver patients.

The German Medical Association, the main federal-level body representing medical practitioners, says that regulation of transplant lists has now been tightened.

Frank Ulrich Montgomery said that any irregularities are now "history," and that transplant medicine had never been as secure as it is today.

Montgomery was quoted as saying by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that previous malpractice would also be addressed, however.

Saxony, where Leipzig is located, has a large number of patients waiting for urgent transplants, according to MDR radio.

Eugen Brysch, the head of Germany's Foundation for Patient Protection, told the station that there are too many transplant centres in Germany competing for too few organs, and that half should be shuttered.

According to broadcaster ARD, Germany is currently home to 47 transplant centres. Last August, they were moved under the control of a single overseeing body, however.

According to the country's health ministry, three other cases of irregularities around transplants and organ donations were found after checks were carried out on a further 10 transplant centres.

The scandal isn't the first of its kind to come to light in Germany.

Previously, transplant lists in Munich, Regensburg and Goettingen were found to have been manipulated.

It is not yet clear whether those cases are linked to the Leipzig case.

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