A Comprehensive Analysis of Litigation in Organ Transplantation for Allegations of Insufficient Policy Coverage, Discrimination and Malpractice

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Progress in transplantation (Aliso Viejo, Calif.)




clinical outcomes; discrimination; education; general; litigation; living donor; malpractice; policy


Transplantation is a field with unique medical and administrative challenges that involve an equally diverse array of stakeholders. Expectantly, the litigation stemming from this field should be similarly nuanced. There is a paucity of comprehensive reviews characterizing this medicolegal landscape. The Caselaw Access Project Database was used to collect official court briefs of 2053 lawsuits related to kidney, liver, heart, lung, and pancreas transplantation. A thematic analysis was undertaken to characterize grounds for litigation, defendant type, and outcomes. Cases were grouped into policy, discrimination, poor or unsuccessful outcome, or other categories. One hundred sixty-four court cases were included for analysis. Cases involving disputes over policy coverage were the most common across all organ types (N = 55, 33.5%). This was followed by poor outcomes (N = 51, 31.1%), allegations of discrimination against prison systems and employers (N = 37, 22.6%) and other (N = 21, 12.8%). Defendants involved in discrimination trials won with the greatest frequency (N = 29, 90.62%). Defendants implicated in policy suits won 65.3% (N = 32), poor outcomes 62.2% (N = 28), and other 70% (N = 14). Of the 51 cases involving poor outcomes, plaintiffs indicated lack of informed consent in 23 (45.1%). Reconsidering the informed consent process may be a viable means of mitigating future legal action. Most discrimination suits favoring defendants suggested previous concerns of structural injustices in transplantation may not be founded. The prevalence of policy-related cases could be an indication of financial burden on patients. Future work and advocacy will need to substantiate these concerns and address change where legal recourse falls short.


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