Home Heart Transplant Heart transplant deaths lead to tougher scrutiny at St. Luke's in Houston

Heart transplant deaths lead to tougher scrutiny at St. Luke's in Houston

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After an increase in complications and patient deaths, the hospital hired Jeffrey Morgan, MD, as its surgical director for the transplant program in 2015 and removed high-risk patients from its waiting list. Mistakes continued, including two incidents where Morgan sewed through a major vein to the heart, leading to one patient’s death and a three-month hospital stay for another.

Morgan was chosen for his academic rather than surgical experience—being called “an academic superstar”—and mistakes at St. Luke's continued. Problems at his previous positions also arose, such as a decision for him to stop performing lung transplants after his initial patients experienced complications.

"Was it hubris for Jeff to say, 'I'm going to do lungs?'” said longtime heart surgeon Billy Cohn, MD. “We put him in that position and said, 'You're the chief, man. Go for it.' We handed him the reins. Was that our error? Yeah, maybe we should have said, 'Dude, you don't have the [experience] to be a lung transplant guy. We're going to shut the program down until we find somebody.'”

Morgan said in a statement the care he provided to these patients “met or exceeded applicable standards.”

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