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Texas surgeon accused of secretly denying liver transplants

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Dr. J. Steve Bynon Jr

A surgeon at a Houston hospital is accused of manipulating a government database to make sure some of his own patients would never receive a liver transplant. It’s unknown how many patients may have been affected.

Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston confirmed on Thursday that it found evidence that a doctor in its liver transplant department had effectively denied transplants by changing records.

The physician was identified as J. Steve Bynon Jr, according to the New York Times.

Doctors are required to list certain criteria – such as a donor’s age and weight – when a patient is added to the waiting list for liver transplants. After someone submitted a complaint, the hospital found that some patients had impossible criteria, such as a 300-pound toddler

Patients would not have been aware of those criteria, according to the New York Times.

“They’re sitting at home, maybe not traveling, thinking they could get an organ offer any time, but in reality, they’re functionally inactive, and so they’re not going to get that transplant,” Dr. Sanjay Kulkarni, the vice chair of the ethics committee at the United Network for Organ Sharing, told the newspaper. “It’s highly unusual, I’ve never heard of it before, and it’s also highly inappropriate.”

It’s unclear how many patients were affected by the changes or when it began. A research group said Memorial Hermann appeared to have a “disproportionate number” of patients who died while waiting for a liver.

Last year, 14 patients were taken off the waiting list because they died or became too sick to receive a liver, which was up from 11 in 2022 and just 4 in 2021. During the first three months of this year, 5 patients were taken off the list.

“At the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, we acknowledge the severity of this allegation,” the department said in a statement. “We are working across the Department to address this matter now. We are committed to protecting patient safety and equitable access to organ transplant services for all patients.”

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