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Published on April 12, 2024
Memorial Hermann Aims to Revive Kidney Transplant Program Amidst Allegations of Record Manipulation in HoustonSource: Google Street View

Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center is scrambling to swiftly revive its kidney transplant program after a hit to their reputation due to a scandal involving alleged record manipulation by a reputed doctor in their liver transplant program, the hospital stated Friday. The hospital is working with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston to restructure the program's physician leadership to prevent future irregularities, an announcement that comes on the heels of the allegations first reported by the Houston Chronicle. The scandal's impact was broad, with both liver and kidney transplant operations coming to a halt, leaving patients in limbo.

The pause of the transplant programs, which owed to a review following the discovery of one key figure reportedly having manipulated the liver transplant waiting list, has left 346 kidney and 38 liver patients uncertain about their next steps. The New York Times, citing unnamed officials, identified the physician as Dr. J. Steve Bynon Jr., heavily implicating him in the controversy. In an effort to quickly reengage with patients who have been adversely affected by the suspension, Memorial Hermann has stated that transplant care coordinators are working tirelessly to review ongoing care options and transition patients to other programs as required.

Inappropriate alterations to the liver transplant candidate records "effectively inactivated the candidates on the liver transplant waiting list," Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center claimed in the statement acquired by CBS News. These actions allegedly prevented these individuals from receiving potential organ donation offers, further compromising the integrity of an already challenging and life-dependent process. UTHealth Houston defended Dr. Bynon in a statement to CBS News, praising him as a pioneering figure in the field of abdominal organ transplantation, even as he remains embroiled in the controversy and inquiry.

While the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services takes cognizance of the situation, with a full-blown investigation underway, Memorial Hermann has yet to provide a definitive timeline for when their kidney and liver transplant programs will resume normal operation. Meanwhile, Houston Methodist and other local medical centers, as reported by the Houston Chronicle, have stepped up to accommodate some of the displaced patients, amid increased public scrutiny of the transplant system's oversight and equitable access to its services. "We are committed to protecting patient safety and equitable access to organ transplant services for all patients," a statement from HHS echoed the gravity and sensitivity surrounding the allegations.