German medicine rocked by Leipzig organ donor scandal

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Doctor waiting for kidney to be removed from donor (file photo - June 2012)
Image caption,
A worldwide shortage of organ donors has put pressure on many transplant clinics

Prosecutors are investigating an organ donor scandal in the east German city of Leipzig in which doctors allegedly manipulated an organ waiting list.

Three doctors have been suspended at the Leipzig University Clinic's organ transplant centre.

German media report that 38 patients with liver problems were falsely listed as dialysis cases in order to shorten their wait for a transplant.

Competition between transplant centres may be to blame, experts say.

There is a worldwide shortage of organ donors - a factor that may have exacerbated competition.

The board director at the Leipzig clinic, Wolfgang Fleig, said he could not rule out that money may have changed hands in the Leipzig scandal.

All the cases in the scandal concern liver patients, and all but one of the alleged manipulations took place in 2010 and 2011.

According to Frank Ulrich Montgomery, head of the German Medical Association, the irregularities are now "history" because supervision has been tightened. "Never has transplant medicine been as secure as it is today," he told the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. But he also said any previous malpractice should be cleared up.

The German Medical Association is the main federal body representing medical practitioners.

Other irregularities

Germany's MDR radio says the scandal is particularly bad news for Saxony, the state where Leipzig is located, because it has many patients urgently in need of transplants.

The head of Germany's Foundation for Patient Protection, Eugen Brysch, was quoted as saying half of the country's transplant centres should be shut to end damaging competition between them. Successful organ transplant programmes boost the prestige of clinics.

The German broadcaster ARD says there are 47 such centres in Germany, but last August they were all brought under a single supervisory body.

The health ministry says 10 centres have been checked so far and three other cases of irregularities were found.

It is not clear if there is any link between the Leipzig scandal and manipulations uncovered previously in Munich, Regensburg and Goettingen.

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