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A prominent transplant and cancer surgeon from Essen, Christoph Broelsch, has been suspended by Essen University following accusations of fraud and blackmailing patients. Professor Broelsch is also being investigated for tax evasion over “unconventional donations” allegedly made by patients.
Essen University Hospital is one of the largest centers for transplant and cancer surgery in Germany, which has been led by Professor Broelsch since 1998. He is known to be one of the pioneers of liver transplantation.
In May 2007 Professor Broelsch was publicly accused by the relative of a patient with liver cancer of having asked for money to bring forward the date of an operation. Police then began an investigation into whether such offers had been made to other patients, including patients from overseas.
After the accusations were made, Professor Broelsch issued a statement denying that he had ever sought financial reward to perform an operation or blackmailed any patient. However, he said that in certain cases when patients without private health insurance asked him to perform an operation he was obliged by German law to tell them that they had to pay extra for his involvement. He said that in some cases he had offered to forgo his extra payment if the patient made a contribution to his research projects.
The original stance of Essen University Hospital was that “unconventional donations” had been made, but Professor Broelsch was not suspended.
On 9 October the rector of Essen University, Lothar Zechlin, issued a statement that the situation had changed and that suspension was necessary.
Professor Broelsch has not made any comment following his suspension and could not be contacted by the BMJ.