Houston Hospital Halts Liver and Kidney Transplants After ‘Inappropriate Changes’ to Patient Records

News & Politics

Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston has shut down its kidney and liver transplant programs after it was discovered that one of its doctors altered records in a government transplant database that may have prevented them from getting new organs. 

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The doctor in question, Dr. Steve Bynon Jr., has been universally praised for his kindness and compassion. But records show that more of his patients died waiting for a transplant than could ordinarily be expected. 

Byron’s employer, UT Health-Houston said in a statement: “According to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, Bynon’s survival rates and surgical outcomes are among the best in the nation, even while treating patients with higher-than-average acuity and disease complexity,” the statement said.

 The US Department of Health and Human Services said that several branches of its agency, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Health Resources and Services Administration, are investigating.

The organization that oversees transplants in the U.S. issued a statement: “The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) takes patient safety very seriously. Per its bylaws, the OPTN cannot comment on any potential or ongoing review of a member organization.”

The hospital told the Houston Chronicle that “inappropriate changes … effectively inactivated the candidates on the liver transplant waiting list. Subsequently, these patients did not/were not able to receive organ donation offers while inactive.”

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CNN:

While liver transplant patients at Memorial Hermann had above-average outcomes compared with other programs nationally, a higher-than-expected number of patients have died while waiting on their list in recent years, according to data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR).  Based on pre-transplant mortality rates at programs across the country, SRTR predicted Memorial Hermann should have seen about 14 deaths from July 2021 through June 2023; instead, the program had 19 deaths, giving the program a pre-transplant death rate approximately 28% higher than would have been expected, said Jon Synder, who is director of the Registry.

Synder noted that while Memorial Hermann pre-transplant death rate was elevated, it was not as high as some others.

I’m going to be interested to discover why he altered patient’s records. The fact that more patients died while waiting for a liver or a kidney than could normally be expected suggests Dr. Byron may have been looking to pad his stats with people more apt to survive the transplant process. 

Guardian:

Helming a relatively small liver transplant program, Memorial Hermann has seen an increasing number of patients who have died while waiting for a liver, according to the Associated Press. Four patients died or became too ill for a transplant in 2021, 11 in 2022, 14 in 2023, and five so far in 2024, it said.

The hospital has not said how long it planned for its liver and kidney transplant programs to remain shuttered. At the time it shut down its programs, Memorial Hermann had 38 patients on the liver program transplant list and 346 patients on the kidney transplant list, it said.

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Imagine needing a transplant and the doctor manipulating records to prevent you from receiving an organ. I don’t care how good this doctor is, but to deny people a life-saving organ is a criminal act deserving of jail.

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