PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s lung transplant program has been put on probation by the United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit that oversees American transplants.

The group says UPMC too frequently took lungs intended for one donor and gave them to another after the first intended transplant patient was determined to not be suitable or able to receive it.

UPMC says the practice of using back up patients is approved by regional organ procurement groups and is meant to ensure the organs – which are in high demand – don’t go to waste.

But UNOS says the 14 times that occurred in 2013 and 2014 was “unusually high” and calls into question whether the lungs might have gone to needier patients.

UPMC can still conduct lung transplants but must notify patients of the probation.

Dr. Jonathan D’Cunha, surgical director of the lung transplant program at UPMC issued the following statement:

“As health care providers dedicated to saving lives, we would never intentionally deviate from UNOS guidelines for organ acceptance.  In every case examined, we requested and received permission from the appropriate organ procurement organization to have a “backup patient” available to receive the organ if necessary. Our intention is to help patients who are often here as their last hope and to ensure that no precious organs are wasted. When we learned that the UNOS Membership and Professional Standards Committee disapproved of our organ acceptance practices, we immediately discontinued these practices. We have been fully compliant since that time and transparent during this entire process.”

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