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Two More Suits Filed Against UCI Hospital

Times Staff Writer

Two lawsuits involving seven patients who were awaiting livers from UCI Medical Center’s failed transplant program were filed Friday against the hospital.

The suits raise to 18 the number of patient cases that are in court, including at least 13 alleging wrongful death because patients died while awaiting operations. The program had just more than 100 patients.

The latest cases were filed in Orange County Superior Court by the families of three patients who died waiting for the organs and four patients who are still alive.

The lawyer for the plaintiffs, Lawrence Eisenberg, said at a news conference Friday that the Medical Board of California was investigating physicians involved with the transplant program. A spokeswoman for the medical board would not confirm the investigation.

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The suits have been prompted by revelations that more than 30 patients on the UC Irvine hospital’s waiting list died while waiting for liver transplants, as the hospital rejected scores of organs, at times because no surgeon was present to perform the operation. UC Irvine shut down the program Nov. 10 after the federal government withdrew funding.

The Orange medical center did not have a full-time liver transplant surgeon after July 2004, though it continued to recruit patients to its waiting list. It also failed to perform the requisite number of operations to meet federal standards in each of the last four years, and its patient survival rate was below the federal minimum level in 2004.

None of those facts were disclosed to patients on the waiting list, Eisenberg said.

“It is clear from our investigation thus far that the conduct exhibited at UCI’s transplant program was a breach of trust of the highest order,” he said.

A spokesman for the medical center declined to comment on the suits.


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