"Your liver. It's a large glandular organ in your abdomen."
Something is rotten at the UCLA Medical Center's transplant section, according to Iowa Senator Charles Grassley.
An influential U.S. senator sent a series of letters Friday seeking additional details about four liver transplants at UCLA Medical Center involving patients who were suspected members or associates of Japanese organized crime groups.
"While surgeons do not seek to pass moral judgment on the patients they treat, Americans hope at the very least that foreign criminal figures wait in line along with the rest of us," Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, wrote in a letter to UCLA.
Grassley sent the letters after two [Los Angeles] Times articles last week detailed the transplants, which took place between 2000 and 2004, and subsequent donations to UCLA of $100,000 from two of the recipients.
My first reaction on reading this was, "What business is it of Charles Grassley, or the Senate, to determine who receives liver transplants?" But the number bothered me. There aren't that many livers transplanted at UCLA. There can't be. And what are the odds that in a four year period four of them would go to Japanese yakuza bosses? There can't be that many yakuza bosses with bad livers, can there?
In fact, there aren't that many of either. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, between 2000 and 2004 UCLA transplanted 971 livers. That means that during the time period which concerns Grassley, one in every 243 UCLA liver transplant recipients was a Japanese mob boss. What a statistical anomaly! I rather doubt that even one in every 243 Japanese is a mob boss, much less Californians, or for that matter that the population on the United States liver transplant waiting list (currently estimated at 9000) includes that many asian crime syndicate bigshots.
I've written earlier about the tragedy of low supply and high demand for organ transplants. According to UCLA's own faq on the procedure, organs are supposed to go to the "best possible match" rather than on the basis of monetary donations or favoritism. While I certainly can't say that monetary donations were the reason for the apparent anomaly of so many gangsters being so well matched to so few livers, I can certainly see why this news would disturb many, including Grassley. I can also see why it would disturb the medical profession, who want to keep control over selection criteria rather than having it turned over to politicians. The best solution there is to stick to your own guidelines fellas.
Finally, I do wonder why the FBI is arranging medical visas for mob bosses to get these livers too, as the LAT reports. Some inducement is required to get cooperation from criminals as the FBI was trying to do here, but this takes witness protection to new levels.