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Nine sue transplant hospital

| Sunday, Dec. 25, 2005

LOS ANGELES -- Nine families whose relatives died while waiting for liver transplants have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against an Orange County hospital that suspended the transplant program last month amid allegations of wrongdoing.

The lawsuit claims the transplant program at the University of California, Irvine Medical Center, accepted new patients when officials knew they didn't have the ability to perform transplants, said attorney Larry Eisenberg.

The program was shut down Nov. 10 after a stinging report by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. More than 30 people died while waiting for transplants during the last two years, the report said, and the program did not meet federal requirements for one-year survival rates or completing a minimum number of transplants. The hospital had not had a resident liver transplant surgeon since 2003.

The lawsuit, filed in Orange County Superior Court, names the University of California, Irvine Medical Center, as a defendant as well as staff doctors, the former head of the transplant program and the University of California regents. It seeks unspecified damages.

A telephone call to the UCI medical center was not returned.

Eisenberg previously filed a lawsuit on behalf of the widow of a man who died in 2004 while waiting for a liver and a couple who waited six years for the wife to receive a liver at UCI before transferring to a Chicago hospital.

UCI Medical Center has been rocked by two other major scandals in recent years.

In the mid-1990s, fertility doctors stole patients' eggs and implanted them in infertile women who in some instances gave birth. The university paid nearly $20 million to settle legal claims.

In 1999, the facility fired the director of its donated cadaver program amid suspicion that he had improperly sold spines to an Arizona research program.

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