UCLA: Livers For Sale

According to 60 Minutes,the UCLA Medical Center moved a notorious Japanese mobster to the head of the liver transplant line after he donated $1 million to the program. Thus imitating Mother Teresa, who became friends with the worst dictators in the world if they gave her enough money.

More UCLA receives a large amount of taxpayer money, both state and federal. None of those taxpayers appreciates losing a life-saving liver to a gangster who paid none of those taxes. It’s an extreme abuse of public trust.

14 Replies to “UCLA: Livers For Sale”

  1. Big deal. Livers are scarce and need to be rationed in some fashion. The only alternative to letting prices allocate body parts is to empower some panel to make the decision based upon some set of reasons that are bound to be entirely subjective and transitory. There really is no superior mechanism.

  2. “…if they gave her enough money. ”

    You know, the money was never for her. You could be decent enough to at least mention that. When faced with the imminent death of thousands under her care, Mother Teresa chose to accept money from anyone that was willing to donate it. If she had not, people would die. It’s not as if accepting that money did much to keep those dictators in power. The benefit gained is much larger.

    What would your choice have been?

  3. I learned about Mother Teresa making friends with dictators from Christopher Hitchen’s book about her: Assume The Position.

    To say that giving the money to Mother Teresa saved lives disregards what would have happened to the money had she not accepted it. Perhaps it would have been spent locally, giving the local economy a long-term boost and saving even more lives — lives of those from whom the money was stolen.

  4. giving livers to people based on money is disgusting. It’s just another way that this society values the lives of rich people more than the lives of poor people. Why should people with money be entitled to better health care than people without, and this wasn’t even a case of people without, this is a case of people without A MILLION dollars to spare and to donate. And this was someone who didn’t even get the money legally. The current system of liver dispersal, the MELD score is certainly not great as it takes into account the bilirubin score as well as the INR & creatinine levels, but that only takes into account people with cirrhotic livers– mostly alcoholics. Those who are very sick with end stage liver disease suffering with autoimmune conditions such as primary billiary cirrhosis, won’t have INR or creatinine levels that are significant enough to raise the MELD score, yet they’re just as acute as others. My mother died at age 54 after being on the transplant list for five years. She was a new york city school teacher for 33 years and She never drank a day in her life. Yet, heroin addicts and alcoholics got one before she did because they had higher MELD scores. I’m not saying that they deserved it less than she did, or that she deserved a liver more… but actually I am.

  5. I am waiting for a liver transplant. I don’t wanna die, but I’m not a rich japanese gangster. I was a drug and alcohol counselor for 23 years, which was rewarding in terms of intangible benefits, but not financially. I have been on a transplant list for two years now, as every aspect of my life and health both past and present was examined in microscopic detail. I passed, but what’s the point really? This particular criminal godfather isn’t the only gangster to jump the line. They got in front by ‘donating’ a half million dollars each to UC med center. The Docs and Hospital hide accountability for being weasels under the cloak of ‘patient confidentiality.’ Shouldn’t apply to illegal recipients. Gangsters gonna die anyway due to the same thing that ruined his liver in the first place. Either that or his gangster buds will off him for making a deal with our gullible FBI who are shocked, shocked I tell you, that a gangster lied to them about telling all AFTER the transplant. Morons.

  6. It’s also never really been clarified how Steve Jobs was able to get a liver so quickly. Apparently his access to the Apple jet enabled him to “shop” for a region with a shorter waitlist than California (I believe he got his liver in Nashville.)

  7. soulfinger, if the doctors involved did this from a private for-profit hospital, I would find it much less offensive. UCLA Medical Center is heavily supported by taxpayers, who didn’t fund it so that it could do this sort of thing. The doctors get $1 million, the gangster gets a liver . . . and taxpayers lose a life-saving liver. It’s an extreme abuse of public trust.

  8. The last time I checked the United States was a capitalist society. Basically if you can pay for it you can have it. Tax payment and fair play are moot within such a construct.
    No surprise
    No big deal

  9. BTW, if you’re interested in what Hitchens has said more recently about Mother Teresa, like during the past week or so, just google ‘Hitchens Mother Teresa bitch.’ The woman has been dead for 10+ years, but he still becomes unglued by the thought of her. Too bad. Seems like he’s heading down the same path of shame as other accomplished notables as they mature…James Watson, Mel Gibson come to mind.

    This morning during a local newscast (WNBC, NYC), there was a story about H1N1 vaccine going to a corporation (Citi). Didn’t hear the whole bit, but the newscasters were upset that hospitals and MD offices couldn’t get enough vaccine for children and pregnant woman…but this corporation could get it for ‘healthy 40-year olds.’ If it’s true, maybe they paid $1M for it? Oh wait, didn’t we bail them out? If it’s not true, then they just ran with a rumor which they knew would push people’s buttons.

    Bottom line: there is nothing new under the sun.

  10. “To say that giving the money to Mother Teresa saved lives disregards what would have happened to the money had she not accepted it. Perhaps it would have been spent locally, giving the local economy a long-term boost and saving even more lives — lives of those from whom the money was stolen.”

    Seth, I think that logic may be dubious in the case of Mother Teresa – in leui of donating to her, these dictators would have been more benevolent to their own people? That objection aside, doesn’t that logic apply here in favor of UCLA? Absent selling the liver transplant for $1 million, they would have $1 million less to do good works with. And that $1 million may have been spent by the gangster to propogate more crime.

    I would agree that a taxpayer should take precedent over a non-taxpayer other things being equal, but as a taxpayer myself I am not so sure the preference should preclude an additional $1 million in the coffers that could benefit me down the line. The fact that the guy is a criminal is more troubling, and so I agree with the point that on principle we may not want his blood money.

  11. True, those arguments cut both ways. I am trying to say there is something morally repugnant about what both the UCLA doctors did and what Mother Teresa did and I think there is something reasonable about that repugnance. Two of the commenters expressed that repugnance much better than I did.

  12. Seth, I fail to see the “repugnance” of both cases as being equal enough to be mentioned in the same sentence. First, the benefit to the liver program is small at best ($1 million does not buy much for a transplant program), while for Mother Teresa’s beneficiaries even $100 can save lives, a very real positive consequence.

    Second, the same can be said of the benefit to the donor. A Japanese mobster gets a liver and continues to live (a gain of life over death), while a dictator would most likely continue to be a dictator whether Mother Teresa accepts his money or not. The benefit he gains is just a few hours of good PR.

    Thirdly, if the Med Center refuses the money, the mobster dies (assuming no other choice for liver exists). If it accepts, the people in the list get pushed down unfairly and their lives are endangered, a very real negative consequence. If Mother Teresa refuses the money more poor and sick around the world will die. If she accepts, the people in the oppressed countries do not see much change in the amount of oppression (if any at all).

    My point here is this: The Med Center can refuse the money and the world is no worse (in fact could be better), while if Mother Teresa refuses, the world is worse for sure. The Med Center accepts the money and innocent people suffer unfairly, while Mother Teresa accepting brings very real benefits to the suffering of the world.

    One can question the actions of Mother Teresa as described by Hitchens, but I would not compare them to the Med Center’s or call them “repugnant.”

    Finally, I ask again: What would your choice have been? Accept the money or deny it?

  13. We disagree whether what Mother Teresa did was repugnant. Fine. But I agree that what the UCLA doctors did is worse.

    Would I have turned down the money? Yes. It’s puzzling that you ask.

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