Probes into Shaikh Zayed liver transplant deaths underway

Updated February 06, 2020

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The Punjab Human Organ Transplant Authority (PHOTA) has shut down the liver transplant facility at the Shaikh Zayed Hospital (SZH) Lahore for a high-level probe into frequent deaths of patients and donors during the post-operative phase. — File
The Punjab Human Organ Transplant Authority (PHOTA) has shut down the liver transplant facility at the Shaikh Zayed Hospital (SZH) Lahore for a high-level probe into frequent deaths of patients and donors during the post-operative phase. — File

LAHORE: The Punjab Human Organ Transplant Authority (PHOTA) has shut down the liver transplant facility at the Shaikh Zayed Hospital (SZH) Lahore for a high-level probe into frequent deaths of patients and donors during the post-operative phase.

An official told Dawn that the most alarming of these deaths were of a young organ donor Umar Farooq and his recipient mother Naseem Bibi during the last two weeks, besides another patient Riaz Hussain.

He said these deaths within a short span of time raised serious doubts about the professional competence of the liver transplant surgeons of the health facility.

As the six-member high-powered panel of PHOTA started investigations into these deaths, another female patient died at the hospital, taking the toll to four, the official said.

The deceased, identified as Bushra Bibi, had undergone liver transplant procedure at the same facility in Nov and was brought back by her relatives a week ago because of serious complications. She died during treatment two days back at the SZH Liver Transplant Unit (LTU), he said.

The official said the liver transplant surgeons, including Dr Tariq Bangish and Dr Amir Latif tried to defend themselves by telling the authorities that the deceased patients might have developed complications because of ‘faulty medicines’.

They suggested investigations into the medicines being supplied to the hospital to check whether the patients developed fatal complications because of any drug reaction. The reports of liver function test (LFT) of the recipients and the donors carried out after the procedure were disturbing, they claimed.

The official lamented that the same unit of the SZH had also been shut down in January 2018 following death of a donor, but PHOTA did not show seriousness to resolve the issue. He mentioned that the same surgeons -- Dr Bangash and Dr Latif-- had operated upon the patient and the donor, who later died, but the authority had not recommended any action against them, allowing them to resume their work.

The official said as PHOTA delayed action over the recent deaths at the LTU, the head of the institution formed a three-member committee comprising senior faculty members to probe into the matter at the hospital’s level. The committee comprises Prof Haroon Javed Majid, Prof Naveed Aslam and Prof Kashif Malik who have started investigations.

Later, a PHOTA team also carried out inspection of the unit to avoid criticism and not only banned transplant procedures, but also formed a six-member panel to probe into the deaths.

Headed by Prof Dr Naila Zafar, the panel visited the hospital and sought written comments from all the relevant departments/units of the hospital after the surgeons blamed faulty medicines for the patients’ death.

The hospital administration and other senior doctors, however, denied the surgeons’ allegations, saying that the same medicines had been dispatched to various other units of the institution but no such complaint was reported so far.

The official further said that during the probe it transpired that the same team of SZH surgeons had also carried out liver transplant operations at a private hospital on Raiwind

Road, where some patients and donor(s) had died from post-operative complications. Following the deaths the private facility’s management refused to hire the SZH surgeons.

SZH administrator Dr Akbar Hussain told Dawn that as two parallel probes were underway into the deaths, it would be premature to say anything with certainty about the cause.

Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2020