Hospital Fined In Reporter’s Death

By: Larry McShane, Associated Press Writer

(AP) A hospital was barred for six months from doing partial-liver transplants involving live donors after state health officials concluded that a donor who died had received inadequate care from inexperienced physicians.

New York State Health Commissioner Antonia Novello also fined Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan the maximum $48,000 on 18 violations. A 10-page report from the health department cites the hospital for almost two dozen deficiencies.

Michael Hurewitz, a reporter for the Times Union in Albany, died Jan. 13, three days after a successful surgery to transplant 60% of his liver to his ailing brother. Adam Hurewitz, a 54-year-old physician, received the donated liver and was recovering.

“This death where a healthy man goes to do something so altruistic is something that should never happen again,” Novello said in announcing the sanctions Tuesday.

Barry Freedman, president of Mount Sinai, said the hospital would work to make sure there were no further problems. “Clearly, things didn’t work the way we wanted them to work,” Freedman said. “We acknowledge and feel horrible about that. We’re going to get that right.”

Hurewitz’s widow, Vicky Hurewitz, said in a statement that she felt her husband’s death was “entirely preventable.”

According to the investigation, Hurewitz began showing additional symptoms while a first year surgical resident — who described herself as “overwhelmed” — was left alone for three hours in charge of 34 patients in the transplant unit.

The resident, who began surgical work five months earlier, had worked in the transplant section for just 12 days. The probe also found that Hurewitz’s surgeon, Dr. Charles Miller, never saw the patient after the operation, contrary to standard surgical policy.

Investigators also found the hospital had a shortage of nurses on the unit and that the patient’s vital signs were neither taken nor recorded often enough to monitor his condition.

Hospital officials said a member of the transplant team visited Hurewitz after the surgery.

The hospital was ordered to hire a consultant, at its own expense, to review all aspects of its liver transplant program.

Since 1988, the hospital has performed more than 2,100 liver transplants, 178 with living donors, the hospital said. Hurewitz’s death was the first of a living donor at Mount Sinai and the second nationally, Novello said.

Hurewitz, a reporter for the Times Union of Albany, began showing signs of distress 24 hours before he died, including a rapid heartbeat, nausea, and hiccups.

He began vomiting blood about two hours before he died, and an autopsy showed he had inhaled bloody vomit caused by a bacterial stomach infection. The cause of the infection remained under investigation.

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