Time for Najarian, U to go separate ways

Another day, another transplant.
Dr. John Najarian, who was acquitted Wednesday of 15 counts of conspiracy, embezzlement, fraud and tax evasion, is back on the job at University Hospital. While the jury verdict may seem defensible, Najarian’s acquittal most likely stems from the renowned surgeon’s reputation. Justice, unfortunately, is not always served.
After the verdict, U.S. Attorney David Lillehaug said, “I didn’t expect to have to oppose both the man in the black robe and the man in the white coat.” Lillehaug believed the judge didn’t give the evidence against Najarian a chance. Lillehaug should have known better; the burden of proof was his. Additionally, when going into battle against someone of Najarian’s stature, the spotlight of scrutiny becomes that much brighter.
Najarian’s performance in the field of medicine goes beyond the operating room. His achievements have made him world-renowned: the 1970 kidney transplant on a 6-week-old boy whose veins were so small Najarian had to use a magnifying glass, and the 1982 liver transplant of 11-month-old Jamie Fisk, among countless others. Ironically, what was surely one of the proudest achievements of his career — the development of ALG, an anti-rejection drug for transplant patients — set Najarian up for what could have been his greatest downfall.
We’ll never know, for sure, if Najarian truly broke the rules. Nothing was unearthed in the trial that directly contradicted the University’s claims that Najarian sold ALG illegally and used the drug on patients without their permission. Najarian says he “didn’t do anything dishonest or criminal,” but his judicial vindication is only a facade that shrouds an ugly period for the University Hospital. The likelihood that the good doctor may have used human beings as guinea pigs for his own benefit may haunt Najarian for the duration of his career.
Nevertheless, he will reportedly continue with his transplant surgery and teaching duties. The University will allow Najarian to work at the hospital, but he will not be paid. We wonder, however, whether his continuation here is good for the University.
Many of his colleagues are thrilled to have him back, but the possibility that this three-year ordeal did irreparable damage to the relationship between the administration and Minnesota’s most well-known physician is overwhelming.
The future of ALG, which still stands as a potential life-saver, is yet to be determined. Looming larger, however, is the powerful presence of Najarian at University Hospital. Should he stay, considering the wonders that have come through his steady hands? Or should he leave, and put to rest a turbulent era? We favor the latter. Najarian’s talent notwithstanding, the University deserves better.
There are no doubt many lives left for Najarian to pull back from the tight grip of mortality; the surgeon’s quota of miracles is not quite full. Still, Najarian’s talent should not overshadow the rules by which this institution is governed. His actions were not deemed worthy of a conviction in a court of law, but by ethical standards Najarian’s character remains a point of contention.