Following deaths of three liver transplant patients in recent weeks, Ichilov Hospital has decided to halt transplants until all the cases are examined.

The first death took place in the end of June, when a 56-year-old patient who suffered from cancer and cirrhosis of the liver began bleeding during anesthetization before the transplant. The anesthetist inserted a catheter in order to administer the anesthetic when a sudden burst of a central blood vessel in the chest cause a massive internal bleeding.

The hospital is still investigating if the bleeding was detected on time. The patient was taken to urgent surgery in an attempt to save his life but he died during surgery.

Two further cases occurred in the past week, shortly after the transplants. One of the patients was in his 50's and the other in his 70's.

Due to the proximity of the events, the hospital's management ordered halting all transplants until further examination. "This might be a mere statistical freak, but we must look into it," one hospital employee said. The examining committee included senior members such as Prof. Yosef Klausner, head of the Surgical Division, Prof. Zamir Halpern of the Gastroenterology Institute and Prof. Idit Matot head of anesthetics and intensive-care unit.

In a statement adderssing the matter, Ichilov Hospital said that "the liver transplant program of the medical center has been active for more than a decade and its results are as good as the best centers in the world. Liver transplant is a complex and dangerous procedure with a significant death rate. Recently, following the deaths of several liver transplant patients, we decided to examine transplant procedures in order to find it out if was a possible fluctuation of the death rate, or if any other problem exists, one that can be rectified. Until the examination was concluded we requested not to be sent liver transplant patients."

At present some 1,114 Israelis are waiting for various transplants, 164 of these are awaiting liver transplants. The average waiting time for a liver transplant in Israel is currently 2 years and four months.