Surgeon accused of trying to 'harvest organs'

A California transplant surgeon has been accused of hastening the death of a severely disabled patient in order to harvest his organs. If found guilty, Hootan Roozrokh faces up to eight years in prison.

Dr Roozrokh was part of a team preparing to operate on Ruben Navarro (25) who had been on a life support machine and was found to be unresponsive. The patient’s family had agreed to donate his organs.

In the operating room at the Sierra Vista medical centre in San Luis Obispo county, 288km north of Los Angeles, Roozrokh (33) ordered a total of 200mg of morphine and 80mg of the sedative Ativan for the patient, far above normal doses.
He also administered the antiseptic Betadine through a tube into Navarro’s stomach, a sterilisation procedure normally done after death. But Navarro survived for more than seven hours after being removed from life support and given the drugs. The time limit for organs to remain viable after life support has been withdrawn is 30 minutes.

Navarro was returned to intensive care, where he died the next morning.

“The law and the facts indicated that Dr Roozrokh ... tried to accelerate [Navarro’s] death to facilitate the harvesting of his organs,” said chief deputy district attorney Stephen Brown.

Prosecutors said they were not pursuing murder charges because they did not believe the drugs caused Navarro’s death. Under Californian law, transplant surgeons are forbidden from being involved in the treatment of potential organ donors before they are dead. “The lines weren’t just blurred; [Roozrokh] took over,” Brown said. “Central to this case is the mistreatment of a disabled patient.”

Gerald Schwartzbach, Roozrokh’s lawyer, called the charges “unfounded and ill-advised”, and said his client “has unfairly been the subject of an 18-month witch-hunt”. - Guardian Unlimited Â

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