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Narrat Inq Bioeth. 2019;9(1):77-82. doi: 10.1353/nib.2019.0020.

Malleable Transplant Criteria: At What Cost?


An 18-year-old male who had been diagnosed at age 7 with a rare, progressive liver disease was referred to the transplant center and received a transplant, even though he did not meet the center's criteria for a patient with hepatopulmonary syndrome (HPS). Complications required relisting the patient urgently, but he eventually fully recovered; total hospital charges for his treatment exceeded $5 million. Reflection upon the case resulted in analysis of two ethical questions: primarily, clinician obligation to balance the provision of actuarially fair health care to society against the healing of a single patient; secondarily, the effects of malleable transplant criteria on trust in the patient selection process. We affirmed that physicians should not be principally responsible for justifying financial investment to society or for upholding beneficence beyond the individual physician and patient relationship in order to contain costs. We concluded, however, that such instances, when combined with manipulation of transplant center criteria, pose a potential threat to public trust. We therefore suggested that transplant centers maintain independent ethics committees to review such cases.


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