Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Hopes To Establish 'Model' Live Medicine Center in Boston

Amid a controversy sparked by nationwide liver-donor shortages and a fevered public policy debate, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), a Harvard Medical School affiliate, announced the creation of a "multidisciplinary" liver medicine center to bring needed care to Boston-area liver patients.

The incoming chief of the new center, Dr. Maureen Martin, said she hopes her team of doctors, nurses and researchers will build the strongest program in Boston, "one that can serve as a model for the rest of the nation."

Martin said one of her objectives is opening Boston's first pediatric liver program at her center.

She also said she hopes to begin a "living-donor program" that transplants parts of the liver from one living person into the liver of another. Her center, she said, has recruited an expert in this field.

When the new center opens later this month, it will find itself embroiled in a national dispute over how to best handle the allocation of liver donations and transplants.

At the conflict's core is a proposal by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Donna E. Shalala.

Shalala wants to begin making donated livers available for the sickest patients across the nation--the sicker you are, wherever you are, the better chance you'll get a new liver.

The current policy allows only the sickest transplant candidates within the donor's geographic region to be given priority for the liver.

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