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L.A. surgeon indicted on charges of falsifying liver transplant records

January 6, 2010 |  4:34 pm
A surgeon who directed the liver transplant program at St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles was indicted today by a federal grand jury for allegedly lying to officials after a liver accepted for one patient was transplanted into another who had a lower priority on a national waiting list, authorities said.

Richard Lopez, 54, was charged with conspiracy, concealing a material fact and six counts of falsification of records, the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles said.

In September 2003, St. Vincent was offered a liver for one of its patients, identified only as A-H, who was second on the match list for that liver, according to the indictment. At the time, the patient was in his home country of Saudi Arabia.

The backup patient for that liver was at a local hospital, prosecutors said.

But instead of allowing the backup patient to receive the liver, Lopez allegedly authorized a patient at St. Vincent to receive the organ, according to the indictment.

Afterward, Lopez and other unnamed co-conspirators allegedly provided false information to medical authorities and the national organ transplant network, saying that A-H had received the liver, the indictment said.

A-H was removed from the organ-waiting list, but Lopez told the patient that he was still on it, the indictment alleges. The patient eventually died.

The indictment comes three years after an extensive Times investigation into the nation's organ transplant system.

-- Robert J. Lopez