Sir William Osler, a 19th-century Canadian doctor, is quoted as saying that "a physician who treats himself has a fool for a patient." Something similar might be said about hospitals that try to investigate their own shortcomings, rather than hire outside, independent experts.
Last month, surgeons at University of Toledo Medical Center removed a healthy kidney from a Toledo man to transplant into his sister. Instead, a nurse accidentally discarded the kidney with medical waste. By the time the error was discovered, it was too late to save the organ.
Fortunately, no one died. UTMC officials say there is a good chance of finding another match for the patient. But the woman, who has end-stage renal disease, is back on the national waiting list for a kidney, which likely won't be as good a match as her brother's kidney.
Discarding a viable organ suggests a serious breach of protocol that requires a thorough, unbiased review of hospital procedures. The response by UT and hospital officials so far has been inconsistent and inadequate.
They are "anguished" and "deeply sorry." Yet they minimize past problems with the transplant program, and are reluctant to commission the truly independent investigation that transparency and public confidence demand.
Most reviews of UTMC's kidney transplant program have been blemish-free. But that is a minimum expectation when even inadvertent oversights can result in the death of a patient.
So it is disturbing when university and hospital officials gloss over higher-than-expected failure rates, improperly coded patient charts, and unsigned organ-compatibility checks. And it raises questions about the hospital's ability to act as its own doctor in the review process.
UTMC suspended -- then reinstated -- its administrator of surgical services. It has temporarily stripped the surgeon in charge of the botched transplant of his title of surgical director of renal transplantation. And it suspended two nurses, one of whom later quit.
The United Network for Organ Sharing and the Ohio Department of Health are investigating the incident for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. UTMC has hired a Texas transplant surgeon to review its kidney transplant program. More must be done.
"Heal thyself" is bad medical advice. Only a broad, unbiased, and transparent investigation by an independent panel of experts can restore public confidence in UTMC's transplant program.