Brain-Dead Patient Allegedly Kept Alive to Boost Stats

ProPublica investigation looks into case at Newark Beth Israel hospital in New Jersey
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 4, 2019 11:43 AM CDT
Brain-Dead Patient Allegedly Kept Alive to Boost Stats

A ProPublica investigation into practices at New Jersey's Newark Beth Israel hospital reveals a startling case: The hospital is accused of keeping a brain-dead patient alive for a year to boost survival stats on organ transplants. The story alleges that the hospital's transplant team kept the family of 61-year-old Darryl Young "in the dark" regarding his grim prospects for recovery so the family wouldn't request that he be removed from life support. If Young died within one year of his heart transplant, that would have hurt the hospital's federal survival stats and put the transplant program in jeopardy, writes Caroline Chen. The story is based not just on interviews but on audio of doctors discussing Young's case in a meeting. Some of the excerpts:

  • “Anything on Darryl Young?” asks cardiologist Dr. Darko Vucicevic at the April meeting.
  • “Need to keep him alive till June 30 at a minimum,” says Dr. Mark Zucker, director of the hospital’s heart and lung transplant programs.
  • At one point, Dr. Martin Strueber, a transplant surgeon no longer at the hospital, says he hopes the transplant team can “move the program forward ... to a status that we never ever have this discussion again,” or have to “think about this ethical dilemma of keeping somebody alive for the sake of the program.”
  • “They've not asked...for us to withdraw care?” asks Dr. Navin Rajagopalan, the heart program’s medical director, referring to Young's family. “I’m playing devil’s advocate,” he says. “It’s not as if they’re asking for this and we’re saying no, we cannot do this.”
  • “We haven’t refused anything they’ve asked," replies Zucker. “We just haven’t raised withdrawing it.”
  • “I’m not sure that this is ethical, moral or right,” Zucker tells the team at one point, but it’s “for the global good of the future transplant recipients.”
The hospital says it is reviewing policies in light of the story, but adds that "disclosures of select portions of lengthy and highly complex medical discussions, when taken out of context, may distort the intent of conversations.” Read the full story. (Read more Longform stories.)

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