Transplants for the Yakuza?

posted at 9:07 am on May 30, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

The Los Angeles Times reports that four Japanese gangsters received transplants from UCLA, at least three of whom were not eligible to enter the US. The FBI helped get one of the men into the country in exchange for what turned out to be useless information, and barred him from re-entering. His UCLA surgeon flew to Japan to continue his medical work instead (via Michelle):

UCLA Medical Center and its most accomplished liver surgeon provided a life-saving transplant to one of Japan’s most powerful gang bosses, law enforcement sources told The Times.

In addition, the surgeon performed liver transplants at UCLA on three other men who are now barred from entering the United States because of their criminal records or suspected affiliation with Japanese organized crime groups, said a knowledgeable law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The four surgeries were done between 2000 and 2004 at a time of pronounced organ scarcity. In each of those years, more than 100 patients died awaiting liver transplants in the Greater Los Angeles region.

The surgeon in each case was Dr. Ronald W. Busuttil, executive chairman of UCLA’s surgery department, according to another person familiar with the matter who also spoke on condition of anonymity. Busuttil is a world-renowned liver surgeon who co-edited a leading text on liver transplantation and is one of the highest-paid employees in the University of California system.

The First Mate and I have extensive personal knowledge of the transplant system; she has had three kidney transplants and one pancreas transplant over the last 13 years. We have worked within the system in Southern California for cadaver transplants as well as the Minnesota circuit. The system is straightforward and does not play favorites, and it saves thousands of lives each year, even though people die every year while waiting for transplantable organs.

Transplant doctors cannot possibly be expected to vet their patients for criminal records. They have far too much work as it is in assessing need for the recipients and helping them survive until they can get their transplant. Even if they had the time to do background checks, the resulting ranking system would be a logistical nightmare. Would assault result in lower priority than check forging? Embezzlement lower than marijuana trafficking?

The real culprit in these cases is the federal government who allowed entry to gangsters in the first place. We spend enough money providing health care to Americans who can’t afford it. We certainly don’t have any requirement to treat gangsters from Japan, especially at the expense of Americans who are literally dying for these rare organs. The FBI allowed itself to get punked by a gangster at the cost of one American who didn’t get that transplant ahead of Goto.

That doesn’t let UCLA entirely off the hook. If Busuttil didn’t know who Goto was when he was on the operating table, he certainly knew it when Goto got deported. Instead of washing their hands of the Yakuza gangster when he could no longer enter the US for treatment, Busuttil traveled to Japan to treat him as well as to provide testimony on his behalf to free him from jail on the basis of health concerns. Did that take place at taxpayer expense? UCLA is a public facility, and his salary gets paid by California taxpayers. Unless he took unpaid leave, Californians footed the bill to treat Goto in Japan and get him sprung from custody.

We need more people to become donors and help save thousands of lives each year. Giving liver transplants to Yakuza gangsters doesn’t make that sound attractive to Americans who assume that their dying gift would go to members of their own community.

Update: I should note that two of those three kidney transplants the FM received came from friends as live donors, a beautiful gift we will never be able to repay.  Transplant technology has advanced far enough that non-relation living donations are a major source of transplanted organs.

Also, on a tangent, see how Japan handles relations with foreigners, especially in child-custody disputes.


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I don’t want my doctor to worry about anything but what he is there to repair or cure.
Let the officials worry about background, immigration status, criminal background, etc.
I want my doctor focused on me (or my loved one), and correcting whatever needs to be corrected.

right2bright on May 30, 2008 at 9:14 AM

We spend enough money providing health care to Americans who can’t afford it. We certainly don’t have any requirement to treat gangsters from Japan, especially at the expense of Americans who are literally dying for these rare organs. The FBI allowed itself to get punked by a gangster at the cost of one American who didn’t get that transplant ahead of Goto.
Ed Morrisey

I am sorry to hear about the First Mate.

I am employed at a hospital here in Illinois. It is very common for my hospital to provide free healthcare for illegals, whether it is a Cat Scan or MRI or free Emergency Room care.

The illegal usually provides a Mexican or Honduras country ID card and a Illinois Medicaid Public Aid card. In return, the hospital provides the healthcare for free, basically. The reimbursement rates for Illinois Medicaid are very low.

It stinks when the Director wants us to cut staff, reduce expenses due to declining revenue, at the very same time we are giving away free healthcare to people who have no respect for the laws of the United States and who refuse to assimilate and learn English.

ColtsFan on May 30, 2008 at 9:16 AM

A prime example of why government-run health care would be an absolute disaster.

WisCon on May 30, 2008 at 9:18 AM

The First Mate and I have extensive personal knowledge of the transplant system; she has had three kidney transplants and one pancreas transplant over the last 13 years.

Wow. I have read and heard you say in passing that your wife has medical problems, but I never imagined anything like that. Sounds like your wife is one tough cooky. I wish you both all the best in the future.

NotCoach on May 30, 2008 at 9:18 AM

Well said. I’m guessing the doc was “compensated” for his trip to Japan. Or, he was “encouraged” to go by Goto’s handlers.

CP on May 30, 2008 at 9:20 AM

Wow. I have read and heard you say in passing that your wife has medical problems, but I never imagined anything like that. Sounds like your wife is one tough cooky. I wish you both all the best in the future.

NotCoach on May 30, 2008 at 9:18 AM

Ditto here.

ColtsFan on May 30, 2008 at 9:21 AM

I want my doctor focused on me (or my loved one), and correcting whatever needs to be corrected.

right2bright on May 30, 2008 at 9:14 AM

Then what if you fond out that the kidney your loved one was to receive, was transplanted into Osama Bin Laden instead and your loved one died?

kcd on May 30, 2008 at 9:23 AM

When I read a headline that includes the words ‘Yakuza’ and ‘transplants’ I immediately start thinking about fingers.

James on May 30, 2008 at 9:30 AM

I understand why people don’t want organ recipients denied organs based on past criminal behavior, but I do not understand why foreigners are being permitted to come to U.S. hospitals and receive donor organs here that should be going to U.S. citizens in need. We don’t have enough donor organs to meet the needs of our own people. Why in the world are we giving them away to foreigners, let alone foreign criminals?

AZCoyote on May 30, 2008 at 9:31 AM

A prime example of why government-run health care would be an absolute disaster.

WisCon on May 30, 2008 at 9:18 AM

True.

But it seems our present situation already appears to be a
disaster.

In my area, 2 hospitals have already shut down due to the negative financial effects of illegal immigration, “Open Borders”, Visa over stays, etc.

I am beginning to think the Liberals, the Open-Borders crowd, and the RINO Republicans want the country’s health care to further disintegrate so that nationalized health care will appear for many as the only solution.

ColtsFan on May 30, 2008 at 9:37 AM

I am beginning to think the Liberals, the Open-Borders crowd, and the RINO Republicans want the country’s health care to further disintegrate so that nationalized health care will appear for many as the only solution.
ColtsFan on May 30, 2008 at 9:37 AM

That has been their agenda all along. It started way back with FDR…. : )

kcd on May 30, 2008 at 9:41 AM

I understand why people don’t want organ recipients denied organs based on past criminal behavior, but I do not understand why foreigners are being permitted to come to U.S. hospitals and receive donor organs here that should be going to U.S. citizens in need. We don’t have enough donor organs to meet the needs of our own people. Why in the world are we giving them away to foreigners, let alone foreign criminals?

AZCoyote on May 30, 2008 at 9:31 AM

.
Money talks……

Think_b4_speaking on May 30, 2008 at 9:42 AM

Money talks……

Eh. I remember reading in the news back in the early 90s how Iranians were coming here illegally who needed heart surgery
and got them at our taxpayers expense.

Many countries do not do their share in encouraging their citizens to become donors. They also spend little money in research and development, letting the US do the heavy lifting, and offer substandard universal health care instead.

Blake on May 30, 2008 at 9:51 AM

Blake on May 30, 2008 at 9:51 AM

Speaking of Iran, they are the only country in the world that allows people to sell their own organs. I would like to hear Ed’s opinion on organ selling, especially since he is so close to the issue of organ donation.

NotCoach on May 30, 2008 at 9:55 AM

I’m really sorry to hear about the problems with your wife Ed. Is it related to her diabetes? I hope things are going well for her now.
I have donated all usable parts of my body when I crater, but I sure wish the parts would go to an American citizen. I guess no way to be sure though.
L

letget on May 30, 2008 at 9:58 AM

I sure wish the parts would go to an American citizen. I guess no way to be sure though.
L

letget on May 30, 2008 at 9:58 AM

Possibly stipulate this in your will? I mean, even if you are a doner, a loved one would have to give the go-ahead as well. If they were aware of your wishes, that would be part of the process.

kcd on May 30, 2008 at 10:21 AM

The doctor is there to treat the patient. Any vetting of who should/should not receive the organ (e.g., no liver transplant for a nonrecovering alcoholic) needs to be done beforehand by an administrator. But once the organ is in the body, the doctor can’t go around removing it to give to someone deemed more deserving. The surgeon here was just following “treat the patient” ethics. I don’t see that he did anything wrong, the fault lies elsewhere. For instance, why did Japan let these criminals leave, or at least not warn the US about them.

rbj on May 30, 2008 at 10:46 AM

No, the doctors should not have to vet the patients, but this no-questions-asked policy of health care is disastrous. Mexico doesn’t allow it, neither does Japan. When resources are scarce, they have to be somehow allocated fairly, and I feel no obligation to privilege illegal aliens over our citizens.

PattyJ on May 30, 2008 at 10:57 AM

So it’s OK that American organs are going to foreign crime bosses?

No, it’s not OK.

indythinker on May 30, 2008 at 11:15 AM

Transplant doctors cannot possibly be expected to vet their patients for criminal records.

On one hand, you are right; health professionals cannot discriminate based on the criminal records of the patient. On the other hand, however, these patients were all high-ranking members of Japanese organized crime. That cannot be a coincidence. I think somebody would have noticed that.

This doesn’t pass the smell test, Ed. Some shenanigans were involved to get these guys the same doctor in the same facility over a 4-year period.

blueguitarbob on May 30, 2008 at 11:25 AM

My question is how did these guys get on the doner lists in the first place?

Or, was this a case of bringing their own organ? Story is not really clear on that… just that the surgery was done here…

Romeo13 on May 30, 2008 at 11:32 AM

The First Mate and I have extensive personal knowledge of the transplant system; she has had three kidney transplants and one pancreas transplant over the last 13 years.

Holy crow, Ed. God bless you both.

mikeyboss on May 30, 2008 at 11:55 AM

Seeing that the First Mate has been through quite an ordeal, doesn’t that now qualify her for the title of XO (Executive Officer)?

RMCS_USN on May 30, 2008 at 12:14 PM

It was via Michelle for you perhaps, but I noted this on another thread there before anyone heard of it, and as usual got no credit. As for the new Stupid American Soldier Trick

corona on May 30, 2008 at 2:35 PM

The Times is not naming the other three transplant recipients in this article because neither they nor their lawyers could be reached.

Read the article I found this comment quite fascinating by the L.A. Times. I guess it’s Foreigners and Democrats where this policy applies.

Sultry Beauty on May 30, 2008 at 3:08 PM

The Yaks drop em some coin?

- The Cat

MirCat on May 30, 2008 at 4:56 PM

The FBI allowed itself to get punked by a gangster at the cost of one American who didn’t get that transplant ahead of Goto.

Some lazy @ss at the FBI decided rather than do the work needed to go after Japanese gangsters in the US, they would bring in this guy and have him cough up some information.

Maybe next time they’ll think twice about taking the lazy way.

91Veteran on May 31, 2008 at 12:54 AM

There’s a saying around Federal Law Enforcement circles about the big, great, telented and stick-their-fingers-in-anything-and-everything FBI: Famous But Incompetent. I can’t think of one FeeBee that has ever met a camera they don’t like. Don’t think so? Check out how every time they are around when local cops find anyone whose been lost/stolen/victimized…whatever… there’s always the ubiquitous “FBI” ball hat those Divas shove onto the poor saps head…That they would get punked for useless information from the Yakuza is nothing shocking…

CapitalistPig on May 31, 2008 at 1:07 AM