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Organ transplant fraud trial opens in Germany

A German doctor has gone on trial for attempted manslaughter and faking medical data to give his patients priority in receiving donated organs. Since the scandal broke, there has been large dip in organ donations.

The 46-year-old doctor, formerly the chief transplant surgeon at the University Hospital in Göttingen, denied all 11 counts of attempted manslaughter as the trial opened in the central German city.

He also faces three charges of causing bodily injury resulting in death for transplanting livers to unsuitable patients, who subsequently died.

His lawyers have also rejected accusations that the doctor, Aiman O., manipulated medical records sent to the central procurement agency Eurotransplant in an attempt to shorten some recipients' waiting time. The prosecution says it has evidence that shows that such manipulations led to the deaths of other patients more in need of the donated organs.

It is the first time in Germany that a doctor has been accused of killing patients by manipulating medical data, and legal experts say the case has breaks completely new legal territory.

The doctor faces at least three years in prison if found guilty. The trial is expected to run until May next year.

Organ donations fall

The trial is the first connected with a wave of medical scandals that emerged more than a year ago, including irregularities exposed at other hospitals in the cities of Munich, Leipzig and Regensburg. The reports of of fraud and abuse within the distribution system appear to have led to a sharp decrease in the number of Germans willing to donate their organs after they die.

The German Organ Donation Foundation says the number of organ donors has fallen by almost 20 per cent since last summer.

Some 12,000 patients are on waiting lists for donor organs. A nationwide advertising campaign is underway in a bid to boost the number of people willing to donate.

tj/pfd (dpa, AFP)

Editor's note: Deutsche Welle is bound by German law and the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and obliges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases.