Despite Month-long Transplant Ban, Hadassah Receives Donated Lung

Transplants have been halted at Jerusalem hospital after dispute with management reportedly led to wasted liver.

Tess Scheflan

Just one day after organ transplants at Hadassah University Hospital were suspended for a month, the National Transplant Center has referred a lung to the Jerusalem hospital for a transplant.

The transplant was called off early Monday morning for medical reasons.

Officials at both the transplant center and Hadassah said they thought the suspension applied only to liver and kidney transplants. But Health Ministry officials said the suspension was comprehensive and unequivocal, and was made in conjunction with transplant center chairman Dr. Rafi Biar and Hadassah’s management.

“The Health Ministry and the National Transplant Center have made it clear to Hadassah that all transplants will be halted for the next month,” the ministry said in a statement issued after Monday’s incident.

The month-long suspension is meant to give Hadassah time to resolve various difficulties that had compromised its ability to perform transplants. The primary problem is a lengthy dispute between senior physicians and the hospital administration that, according to a Channel 2 report, recently resulted in the hospital’s allowing a donated liver to go to waste rather than be transplanted into the next person on the waiting list.

On Sunday night, two lungs were removed from a deceased donor at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. The transplant center sent one to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva and the other to Hadassah. At both hospitals, medical crews prepared to transplant the organs into recipients, and Hadassah sent a doctor to Ichilov to examine the lung and oversee the process of transporting it to Jerusalem.

Early Monday morning, however, Hadassah decided to cancel the planned transplant for medical reasons. Consequently, both lungs were sent to Beilinson and transplanted into patients there.

Sending the lung to Hadassah contravened the decision about the one-month suspension reached just one day earlier, on Saturday night, by the Health Ministry, the National Transplant Center and Hadassah.

In a statement announcing the suspension, the ministry said this decision was “in keeping with the recommendation of the chairman of the National Transplant Center, Prof. Rafi Biar, who last week conducted monitoring at Hadassah, received the expected transplant plan and met with doctors and management at the hospital.”

About a month ago, Channel 2 television reported that because of the conflict between management and the head of the transplant unit, Dr. Hadar Merhav — whom the hospital has been trying to dismiss for the past eight months — a liver transplant for a 50-year-old woman had been canceled. According to the report, because management refused to allow Merhav to do the transplant, another colleague, Dr. Menahem Ben-Haim, refused to do it as well. As a result, the transplant was not carried out and the liver was buried with the donor.

The transplant center was furious over this incident, and Biar promptly announced that he would consider whether transplants at Hadassah should be allowed to continue.

About 10 days ago, Ben-Haim resigned, due mainly to his rocky relationship with Hadassah’s administration. In a letter he wrote to the transplant center, he said the wasted liver was just one of multiple incidents casting doubt on the unit’s ability to function.

“The series of incidents involving transplants, and the attitude of Hadassah’s management, undermines any possibility of carrying out organ transplants here with an acceptable level of safety and raises questions about management’s ability to deal with this complex issue,” he wrote.

The National Transplant Center keeps lists of all patients awaiting organ transplants and refers donated organs to hospitals as soon as they become available. Which patient gets the organ is determined by patients’ medical condition, how long they have been waiting and their compatibility with the available organ, based on factors such as size and the donor’s blood type.

About 50 lung transplants are performed in Israel every year, most of them at Beilinson.