Steve Jobs Opens Up About Liver Transplant at Apple Event

Apple CEO Steve Jobs received a liver transplant from an organ donor in his 20s who died in an auto accident, the technology mogul told an audience at a Wednesday media event in San Francisco.

Jobs' public appearance was his first since his return to work following his medical leave of absence during the first six months of the year.

"As some of you know, about five months ago I had a liver transplant," Jobs said. "I now have the liver of a mid-20s person who died in a car crash and was generous enough to donate their organs, and I wouldn't be here without such generosity."

At the time of Jobs' return to work in June, representatives from Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., declined to answer specific questions from ABCNews.com or confirm reports that Jobs, 54, had received a liver transplant.

However, on June 23, officials at the Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute in Memphis, Tenn., confirmed to the media, with Jobs' permission, that he received the organ transplantation surgery at that center.

The revelation sparked a debate over whether the wealthy are able to use their resources to game the national organ donation system.

Steve Jobs' Liver Transplant Sparked Controversy

The past experience and high success rate of the surgeon involved in the procedure, Dr. James Eason, has been cited as another reason why Jobs would have made the trip from California to Tennessee for the operation. Still, at the time of the news, organ transplant experts and medical ethicists agreed that the choice would have cut Jobs' waiting time for an organ.

They added that his money and mobility may have improved his odds either by going to an area of the country where there are more organ donors and fewer patients waiting, or by signing up at multiple transplant centers.

Hospital Defends Steve Jobs' Liver Transplant

A statement by the hospital indicated that every aspect of Jobs' transplant operation was in accordance with the Transplant Institute policies and United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) policies.

"He received a liver transplant because he was the patient with the highest MELD score (Model for End-Stage Liver Disease) of his blood type and, therefore, the sickest patient on the waiting list at the time a donor organ became available," a June 23 hospital statement read.

Jobs said today that he hoped "all of us can be as generous and elect to become organ donors."

While relocating to a new hospital for better odds and or signing up for multiple transplant centers isn't breaking UNOS policies, ethicists and patients have previously criticized the practice as unfair.

"It's not for anybody but the rich. It's called multiple-listing, a practice some would say is unethical," said Arthur Caplan, co-chair of the United Nations Task Force on organ trafficking and chair of the department of medical ethics at University of Pennsylvania.

When a person needs a liver in the United States, the patient must go to a hospital with a transplant center for an extensive medical, mental and financial consultation. Then if he or she is determined a good candidate, the patient will be put on that transplant center's waiting list.

When a liver becomes available, the nearest of the 49 national Organ Procurement Organizations (OPO) will run a database search and algorithm to match the liver to people on all the transplant centers within that OPO's designated local and regional area.

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