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Doctor acquitted in organ donation scandal

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Doctor acquitted in organ donation scandal
The prosecution team in Göttingen. Photo:DPA
15:53 CEST+02:00
A court in Göttingen acquitted a doctor on Wednesday of charges of attempted manslaughter after he had manipulated patients' data to push them up the organ transplant list.

When the case broke in 2012 it caused a major scandal in Germany and the subsequent trial lasted almost two years.

At the centre of the case was the head of transplantation surgery at Göttingen University Hospital, who was accused of manipulating his patients' medical records to ensure that they received organ transplants faster than they otherwise would have.

The state prosecutor alleged that the doctors motivation was money – for liver transplants he received bonus payments - and called for an eight-year prison sentence for the defendant and a life long ban from practising transplantional medicine.

During the trial, which started in August 2013, the prosecution brought forward 11 charges of attempted manslaughter.

But this was always likely to be a tricky case for the prosecutor to win, as they were breaking new legal ground. Despite bringing a charge of attempted manslaughter they could not name anyone who might have died as a result of the doctor's actions.

During his ruling, senior judge Ralf Günther said that the doctor had breached the medical code of ethics but that this was not an action which was punishable by law.

It could not be proved that the doctor's actions had resulted in other sick people not obtaining organs and that it had subsequently caused their deaths, the judge said.

Furthermore, the sick people whose data was manipulated were genuinely ill, Günther said, and without the transplants they could have died.

Jürgen Hoppe, the head of the defence, said after the ruling “this was the judgement that we fought for.”

The doctor who had remained in custody throughout the past 11 months was visibly relieved when the sentence was read out.

The case will now go to appeal.

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