A Romanian doctor has been arrested on charges of illegally taking hundreds of pacemakers and defibrillators from corpses and implanting them into patients over a seven-year-period for material gain, reports Radio Free Europe.
Prosecutors opened a criminal investigation on February 17 into Dan Tesloianu, a 52-year-old cardiologist from St. Spiridon Hospital in the city of Iasi, alleging he worked in conjunction with four other doctors who helped him find sick patients and then remove cardiac implants after they died. They passed the pacemakers and other devices off as new and illegally pocketed money from patients, prosecutors have stated.
They are being investigated in 238 cases between 2017 and August 2022.
One of Romania’s top doctors expressed shock over the latest health-care furor.
„I’ve been practicing medicine for 30 years and this is beyond belief,” said Dan Coriu, the president of Romania’s Medical College.
Romanian law specifically outlaws the reuse of medical devices from dead people. In the case of Dan Tesloianu, organized crime prosecutors say the dead people were not even consulted before they died — nor their families — about removing the devices postmortem.
Tesloianu has implanted 4,000 pacemakers and other devices during his career, his lawyers say.
Romania’s Prosecutor-General’s Office, which is investigating the case, said he committed 238 „abuses of office” by implanting cardiac devices taken from dead people since 2017.
Romanian prosecutors said in a statement that „Dan Tesloianu acted ‘with intention’…and ignored the risk of provoking grave medical problems or even death to patients.”
There was no official word on whether any of his patients had died because of his alleged illegal surgical procedures.
Prosecutors said the suspect used a ring of medics who supplied the pacemakers and other devices „including those harvested from corpses” in violation of all rules and regulations.
Prosecutors say that „a large number” of the surgical interventions weren’t even necessary and the doctor made „fictitious diagnoses” including by prescribing medicine that would cause ‘specific symptoms,” such as making a patient’s heart beat slower to convince them they needed a pacemaker.
Tesloianu appeared before court in Bucharest last week and the judge ordered him detained for 30 days. His lawyers have appealed.
Tesloianu’s lawyer, Marius Todeanca, defended his client in court, claiming he had harvested devices from dead people „to save lives”, RFE/RL reported.
„Nobody says that lives haven’t been saved. He’s had a 21-year career and carried out 4,000 procedures”, he said, claiming the pacemakers had been sold cheaply.
„According to international treaties, you can use devices from dead people. Let’s ask another question: Is it legal to die if there aren’t available funds for such devices?”, Todeanca questioned.
According to Romanian law, a pacemaker or stimulator is paid for by the public health insurer, the National Health House, although sometimes patients end up paying the cost up front before being reimbursed later.
The Romanian Health Ministry said the law „explicitly forbids” the reuse of devices and disposable materials such as implantable devices.
Prosecutors carried out searches at St. Spiridon Hospital in Iasi last week and noted that it was clearly written on the packaging of unused medical devices used that they were „single-use and should not be reused or sterilized”, the Health Ministry said.
Although Romanians have long been underwhelmed by the country’s health-care system, news of the latest scandal shocked many. Thousands of Romanians have taken to social media to demand that the implicated doctors be „severely punished” if found guilty.
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