A university hospital in Leipzig has admitted to portraying some patients as more sick than they were to move them higher on organ waiting lists. The motives for this manipulation, which is not unique, remain unclear.
Preliminary investigations have shown that 38 patients were wrongly described as dialysis cases to speed up their path to a transplant, with further cases now coming under the spotlight.
The hospital's management said on Wednesday that the doctors' motives were unclear, but accepted that they might have sought financial gain.
"I cannot put my hand in the fire and pledge that no money changed hands," hospital chairman professor Wolfgang Fleig said.
The public prosecutor in Leipzig said on Wednesday that it had taken on the case and was investigating to see if it could identify cause for legal action.
Industry checks revealed the 38 cases of mislabeling patients.
"This was a disturbing result for me. I had always thought that our process conformed with the regulations," Fleig said.
The hospital responded by putting the director of its transplant clinic and two leading doctors on leave of absence. Fleig said that these doctors were responsible for the affected patients' records.
Cutting in line?
The president of the German Medical Association watchdog, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, told mass-circulation daily Bild that the latest revelations in Leipzig were showing that new tests were bearing fruit. Stricter oversight programs were introduced last year, after similar allegations were made against medical staff at clinics in Munich, Regensburg and Göttingen.
"The investigative committee is checking roughly 140 transplant programs, which will take around three years. Therefore, we expect even more to come to light," Montgomery told Bild.
A spokeswoman for the German Health Ministry in Berlin said the discoveries showed "there are mechanisms for monitoring, oversight and control, which are working."
Roughly 12,000 people are on organ transplant waiting lists in Germany, with an average of three dying each day due to demand outstripping supply.
In a separate interview with Tagesspiegel, Montgomery from the German Medical Association urged donors not to be put off by the isolated cases of abuse.
"Transplant medicine in Germany was probably never as safe or protected against cheating as it is now," Montgomery said.
msh/tm (dpa, epd, KNA)