Statement on UCLA's organ transplantation program
CBS's "60 Minutes" ran a story Sunday, Nov. 1, on the Japanese Yakuza that included numerous inaccuracies relating to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and organ transplants in general. Unfortunately, the program failed to air the complete statement provided by UCLA, which directly refuted a number of the segment's allegations.
The U.S. organ allocation system is completely transparent. In 2008, both federal legislative investigators and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services investigative staff conducted in-depth reviews and found that UCLA's liver transplant patients had received the right organ at the right time. No money or donation was offered or paid to anyone at UCLA as a quid pro quo for getting a transplant or moving up on the list.
An individual's place on the transplant list is determined by a complex, federally mandated formula. Thereafter, as livers become available, factors such as the patient's age, weight, blood type, medical condition and physical location, along with the quality of the liver, will determine whether a patient at the top of the list is an appropriate match for the available organ. As such, the list is not static. Although it is a complex system, it is one based on clear, established guidelines and the expertise of dedicated physicians.
UCLA follows all United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) guidelines — medical and ethical — as well as federal and state laws governing organ transplantation. UNOS guidelines explicitly prohibit subjecting any transplant candidate to a "background check" or other ethical litmus tests. They state: "Punitive attitudes that completely exclude those convicted of crimes from receiving medical treatment, including organ transplant, are not ethically legitimate."
A doctor's job is to heal, not judge. That is what UCLA transplant doctors strive to do, performing hundreds of transplants every year. Our liver transplant program, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, has saved the lives of nearly 5,000 individuals.
For more background on this issue, please read the following piece, which appeared in the Los Angeles Times on June 6, 2008: http://www.newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/bad-guy-transplants-52028.aspx.