FBI investigating New Jersey hospital tied to transplant scandal

The FBI is investigating whether Newark (N.J.) Beth Israel Medical Center attempted to defraud federal insurers through its organ transplant program, according to ProPublica.

The investigation was launched after an October report allegedly found that physicians on the organ transplant team kept a vegetative patient alive for a year to boost its heart transplant program's survival rate.

ProPublica reported that the Newark Beth Isreal's transplant director, Mark Zucker, MD, instructed his team to keep 61-year-old heart transplant patient Darryl Young alive for a year. Dr. Zucker reportedly told team members not to discuss options such as hospice care with his family, despite assuming the patient would never wake up or regain normal function.

Mr. Young, who is insured by Medicare and Medicaid, suffered brain damage during a heart transplant at the hospital in September 2018. He remains hospitalized at Newark Beth Israel.

ProPublica also reported that the transplant team appeared to change medical decisions for at least three other patients because of survival rate concerns. 

Although the hospital typically only bills insurers when the patient is discharged, the FBI may be looking for instances where insurers were billed for unnecessary services or other criminal charges related to insurance fraud, according to the report. 

"If medical records were being falsified to keep him on a service, each false statement is a criminal charge," Michael Elliott, a defense lawyer in Dallas, told ProPublica. 

Mr Elliot added that the investigation could take months or even years.

"Newark Beth Israel Medical Center is fully cooperating with all regulatory agencies and investigative bodies," Linda Kamateh, a spokesperson for Newark Beth Israel, told ProPublica. "[The hospital] bills the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in accordance with approved billing guidelines."

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