Texas Hospital Halts Organ Transplant Program After Doctor Accused of Manipulating Records

Photo: JHVEPhoto (Shutterstock)
Photo: JHVEPhoto (Shutterstock)

A Texas hospital has shut down its organ transplant program after discovering that a doctor allegedly made “inappropriate changes” to medical records that would have made certain patients ineligible for operations.

The Houston-based Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, which previously operated a kidney and liver transplant program, has paused the program while an investigation unfolds into alterations made to a patient database. In a statement shared with the Houston Chronicle, the hospital said that the changes impacted patients on a waiting list for liver transplant operations.

Citing hospital officials, The New York Times has identified a highly esteemed transplant surgeon, Dr. J. Steve Bynon Jr., as the person alleged to have made the changes to the database. The Times says that Bynon works for the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston but is under contract to lead Hermann’s abdominal transplant program.

According to the Times, the changes involved “impossible” characteristics attributed to patients that made them ineligible for transplants:

When doctors place a patient on the list, they must identify the types of donors they would consider, including the person’s age and weight. Hospital officials said they found patients had been listed as accepting only donors with ages and weights that were impossible — for instance, a 300-pound toddler — making them unable to receive any transplant.

There’s little clarity about what may have motivated the doctor to make these changes. When reached for comment by Gizmodo, UTHealth provided a statement that reads, in part:

Dr. Steve Bynon is an exceptionally talented and caring physician, and a pioneer in abdominal organ transplantation. According to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, Bynon’s survival rates and surgical outcomes are among the best in the nation, even while treating patients with higher-than-average acuity and disease complexity...Our faculty and staff members, including Dr. Bynon, are assisting with the inquiry into Memorial Hermann’s liver transplant program and are committed to addressing and resolving any findings identified by this process.

Hermann-Texas Medical Center did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The incident is now under investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “We acknowledge the severity of this allegation,” the H.H.S. told the Times. “We are working diligently to address this issue with the attention it deserves.”

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