The iconic billionaire CEO of Apple Inc., Steve Jobs, is one of the most visible organ transplant patient in the world. Jobs health problems were widely publicized and most media outlets reported on his liver transplant in 2009. In most cases the waiting list for organ transplants are long and people generally receive the surgery after waiting on line for years. However Jobs was able to get a transplant in a very short time frame, leaving the question, did Jobs cut in line in Memphis?
Through a little-known legal practice called multiple listing, Jobs doubled his odds by getting on waiting lists in California and Tennessee. Competition on the California organ transplant list was stiff and Jobs may have died waiting. But in mere weeks he jumped to the top of the list in Memphis, ahead of dozens of others. This had raised questions recently about whether there was a deal cut by Jobs in order to skip ahead of the line. National research has shown that people willing and able to travel have a 74 percent higher chance to get a liver. But multiple listings cost a lot of money. Patients often have to travel extensively and go to the other states in which they are listing themselves to undergo tests and evaluations. This is not a cheap process and it subsequently results in people who are wealthy taking advantage of multiple listings. An analysis of data by The Commercial Appeal found nearly two-thirds of liver transplant candidates listed at hospitals in two or more regions live in ZIP codes where the median household income exceeds that of their home state.
However, it was more than money that made Steve Jobs’ transplant possible. It was information and connections, too. After searching the Internet and learning that multiple listing was possible, Jobs and his wife found a critical tie to Memphis, in his attorney George Riley. Jobs qualified medically, and by late February 2009 he’d cleared the evaluations. Another part of the Jobs transplant surgery that doesn’t sit well with people is the fact that Jobs transplant surgeon, Dr. James Eason, is now living in the house Jobs purchased in the Memphis area for his recovery. When Jobs landed on the wait list in Memphis, his team began looking for a house for him. Hospitals often require out-of-town patients to secure nearby housing for the weeks of recuperation that follow. Riley acquired a home in the name of a shell company, LCHG LLC, which had been recently set up by attorneys at the Burch Porter Johnson law firm in Memphis. Two years later, ownership of the home was transferred to Eason, the surgeon, for the same amount Jobs had paid – $850,000. It was also disclosed that before Eason bought the house Riley had been paying Eason’s bills and utilities. Many people have begun to question this arrangement and has led some to believe that the house was in effect a sort of bribe.
Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University who has been critical of multiple listing and particularly the Jobs transplant, said the disclosure of Eason’s living arrangements is troubling. “It strikes me as a potential conflict of interest,” Caplan said. “It strikes me as straining ethical credulity to have him there saying, ‘Well, you know, I just lived here. I was just lucky. And this guy just chose to pay my rent.’ ”
Regardless of Jobs transplant, multiple listing has become ever more prominent in the transplant world. Major insurers like Aetna, for example, now maintain a national network of “Institutes of Excellence” dozens of transplant centers across the country, where covered patients can be evaluated and get on wait lists around the country.