Pi­o­neer­ing US heart sur­geon Coo­ley dies

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

TEXAS: Dr Den­ton Coo­ley, who sparked con­tro­versy and a feud with an­other pi­o­neer­ing heart sur­geon when he per­formed the world’s first ar­ti­fi­cial heart im­plant in 1969, died on Fri­day at the age of 96, the Texas Heart In­sti­tute said. Coo­ley, who also per­formed the first suc­cess­ful hu­man heart trans­plant in the United States, founded the Texas Heart In­sti­tute and was one of the most cel­e­brated heart sur­geons in the world. The Texas na­tive was also known how­ever for a long-run­ning dis­pute with an­other world-renowned in­no­va­tive sur­geon in Hous­ton, Dr Michael DeBakey, over the im­plant op­er­a­tion.

A spokes­woman for Texas Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal, where Coo­ley’s son-in-law acts as sur­geon in chief, said Coo­ley died in his Hous­ton home on Fri­day morn­ing, sur­rounded by his four daugh­ters. Coo­ley, who es­ti­mated he op­er­ated on about 100,000 peo­ple, de­vel­oped many tech­niques used in car­dio­vas­cu­lar surgery and re­ceived hon­ors in­clud­ing the Pres­i­den­tial Medal of Free­dom, the high­est US civil­ian award. “Noth­ing can com­pare with the ac­tiv­ity of the hu­man heart,” Coo­ley, who grew up want­ing to be a den­tist like his fa­ther, once told an in­ter­viewer. “And be­sides that, it’s al­ways had a spe­cial con­no­ta­tion in our so­ci­ety, or in our life. It’s been the seat of the soul and the seat of emo­tions.

“But now we find that it re­ally is a tough lit­tle or­gan. It can tol­er­ate a great deal and it cer­tainly has been re­vealed that it can be cor­rected in many ways and even re­placed by or­gan trans­plan­ta­tion.” Coo­ley per­formed the first suc­cess­ful heart trans­plant in the United States in 1968, a year af­ter South African Dr Chris­ti­aan Barnard had done the first one in the world. Coo­ley also broke ground with sur­gi­cal meth­ods to fix con­gen­i­tal heart anom­alies in in­fants and chil­dren and meth­ods for re­pair­ing and re­plac­ing dis­eased heart valves and went on to found the Texas Heart In­sti­tute.

On April 4, 1969, with no donor heart avail­able for a dy­ing pa­tient, Coo­ley im­planted an ar­ti­fi­cial heart in Haskell Karp, a 47-year-old man from Illi­nois. The de­vice kept Karp alive for 65 hours un­til a hu­man heart be­came avail­able. Coo­ley trans­planted the hu­man heart to Karp but the pa­tient died a day later. The pro­ce­dure led to trou­ble be­cause Coo­ley had used an ar­ti­fi­cial heart de­vel­oped in the lab­o­ra­tory of his for­mer part­ner DeBakey with­out his ap­proval. Coo­ley, who had worked with DeBakey at Baylor Col­lege of Medicine in Hous­ton, ar­gued that he im­planted the heart de­vice in an ur­gent bid to keep his pa­tient alive un­til a hu­man heart was avail­able for trans­plant.

DeBakey called what Coo­ley did an un­eth­i­cal “child­ish act” in order to claim a med­i­cal land­mark, as well as a theft and a be­trayal. The de­vice had been tested in an­i­mals but had not been ap­proved for use in peo­ple. The US gov­ern­ment or­dered an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Sur­geons cen­sured Coo­ley. The con­tro­versy prompted Coo­ley to leave Baylor. In 2007 Coo­ley and DeBakey ended their feud and DeBakey died the next year at age 99. “He wanted to be able to say he was the first one to use an ar­ti­fi­cial heart in a pa­tient,” DeBakey told the New York Times in 2007. “I never quite un­der­stood it other than his am­bi­tion was al­most un­con­trolled. I mean, you don’t let your am­bi­tion get you in trou­ble.” Coo­ley told the Times he was jus­ti­fied in do­ing the im­plant.

He said that at the time he was per­form­ing more heart op­er­a­tions than DeBakey or any­one else and viewed him­self as “the ap­pro­pri­ate per­son to do the first im­plan­ta­tion of an ar­ti­fi­cial heart.” It was not un­til 1982 that the first ar­ti­fi­cial heart in­tended for per­ma­nent use was im­planted in a per­son, at the University of Utah. In his in­ter­view with the Times, Coo­ley said a lawyer once asked him dur­ing a trial if he thought of him­self as the world’s best heart sur­geon. “Yes,” he replied. “Don’t you think that’s be­ing rather im­mod­est?” the lawyer asked. “Per­haps,” Coo­ley said. “But re­mem­ber I’m un­der oath.” — Reuters

— AP

In this file photo, Dr Den­ton A Coo­ley holds up a Jar­vick-7 heart pump model at a news con­fer­ence in Hous­ton, while dis­cussing the 20 year an­niver­sary of the first im­plant of an ar­ti­fi­cial heart in a man. Coo­ley, a Texas sur­geon who per­formed some of the ear­li­est heart trans­plants and im­planted the world’s first ar­ti­fi­cial heart, has died.

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