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Silence breeds suspicion about many things, as Steve Jobs knows

June 29, 2009 |  3:50 pm

Jobs News about Steve Jobs' health has begun to follow a certain pattern: silence, rumor, confirmation of rumor, questions about the original silence.

Now the questions have moved beyond the usual ones about the impact on Apple.

Today's Bloomberg story begins: "Steve Jobs, Apple Inc.’s chief executive officer, got a liver transplant quickly because of a U.S. system that favors patients with the means to rush to geographic areas where there is less competition for organs."

The Associated Press notes: "A celebrity like Apple CEO Steve Jobs scores a rare organ transplant and the world wonders: Did he game the system?"

Here's what the United Network for Organ Sharing says in response: "Recent news regarding liver transplantation has raised public questions regarding how donated livers are allocated and potential variation in transplant waiting times. ... Liver waiting time is greatly influenced by a formula that assigns priority for organ offers based on the candidate's risk of dying within three months without a transplant. For candidates 12 or older, this formula is called a MELD score."

The blog Respectful Insolence offers an explanation of this score and an overview of the current questions, controversy and second-guessing. The author concludes by suggesting that, regardless of what people think of the Jobs case, perhaps a wider discussion is in order:

"Part of the reason for the questions and criticisms of how Jobs managed to use his wealth and power to improve his odds as much as is legally possible is that there are such regional disparities in wait times. If there were not, neither Jobs nor anyone else would feel as compelled to do something like move to Memphis temporarily in order to take advantage of Tennessee's shorter wait lists for liver transplant."

Open acknowledgment tends to limit suspicion.

 -- Tami Dennis

Photo: Steve Jobs, who had been undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer. Credit: Associated Press