German cardiologists accused of queue jumping for scarce hearts


Cardiologists in Berlin may face attempted manslaughter charges if it is proved they jumped queues to get scarce transplant hearts for their patients, a prosecutor warned

The German Heart Centre in Berlin, one of Europe’s biggest advanced cardiology clinics, called police after an internal inquiry found evidence of patients’ health being made to seem worse than it really was so that they would be more likely to qualify for transplants.

Two city newspapers, Der Tagesspiegel and Berliner Zeitung, said a senior surgeon was suspected of fast-tracking 28 patients between 2010 and 2012. She is alleged to have increased their doses of a cardiac medicine to help them to meet criteria for earlier transplants, rather than because the drug was medically necessary.

No other cardiologists have been identified as suspects.

Germany operates national waiting lists for transplants of hearts, livers, kidneys and other organs, with a complex scoring system determining which patient is next to receive one.

Use of the substance, catecholamine, which boosts heart function, is taken as a sign of severe disease.

Martin Steltner, the prosecutor, said police would now try to determine if someone had been put at risk of death by being unfairly overtaken in the queue. This could lead to a doctor being tried for attempted manslaughter.

Germany bars purchases or sales of transplanted organs. It mounts a continuous public campaign to persuade people to leave testaments donating their organs if they die prematurely.

A series of scandals over queue-jumping by the doctors – the last erupted in 2012 over livers – has been blamed by doctors for a decline in willingness to donate.

The waiting lists aim to prevent rich people getting hearts and other organs before poor people do. Currently 10,700 residents of Germany are registered as waiting for organ transplants. The Transplant Foundation says three people die every day who could have gained a life extension if a transplant had been available for them.

The Berlin Heart Centre does about 100 transplants per year, plus other advanced surgery.


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