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Medical Center Pays $265,000 Settlement in Heart Transplant Scandal

August 31, 1996 GMT

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A hospital has agreed to pay a $265,000 settlement to former patients in its heart transplant program, which shut down amid reports that it accepted patients when it was performing no transplants and rejecting almost every heart offered.

The University of Kansas Medical Center will pay $11,000 each to 15 patients or their families who were kept waiting on the transplant list from May 1994 to March 1995. Only one heart was accepted for transplant during that time.

``I am stunned that these violations occurred in a program involving patients with severe, life-threatening medical conditions,″ Attorney General Carla Stovall said Thursday in announcing the settlement.

Overall, 36 patients were billed $500,000 and not told of problems in the program, a state audit found. The program was shut down in April 1995.

Five of the patients have died, but the deaths were not blamed on the program.

Medical center officials denied deceiving any patients, and said they agreed to the settlement only to resolve the issue. The problems were first reported by The Kansas City Star in May 1995.

The state audit, covering February 1994 to April 1995, found that of 66 donor hearts offered, 41 were rejected for medical reasons and 23 for non-medical reasons _ including a lack of staff to perform the transplants and care for patients after surgery.

Two hearts were accepted for transplants, one in February 1994 and one more than a year later, in March 1995.

The hospital lied by telling patients they had been added to the program’s waiting list when they had not, the investigation found. Some also were given false information about the reason donor hearts were rejected.

Charles Rentfro of Kansas City, who was on the transplant list, said he was satisfied with the settlement. He is awaiting a transplant at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.