Global Health Asia-Pacific March 2022 March 2022 - Page 30

Medical News

First patient to receive pig heart dies

Despite the tragic news , doctors still believe the procedure could offer another avenue for saving patients in need of new organs

The 57-year-old patient with terminal heart disease who was grafted with a pig heart passed away two months after the historic surgery was performed in the US .

The animal graft was genetically modified to reduce the risks of rejection by the patient ’ s immune system . As he was not eligible to receive a human heart , the US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorisation because no other treatment was available to save his life .
“ It was either die or do this transplant . I want to live . I know it ’ s a shot in the dark , but it ’ s my last choice ,” said David Bennett , the patient , a day before the surgery , according to a press release . “ I look forward to getting out of bed after I recover .”
In good condition for several weeks after the operation , he managed to spend time with his family while doing physical therapy , but his health started to deteriorate a few days before passing away on March 8 . The cause of death is still unknown .
In October 2021 , Bennet arrived at the University of Maryland Medical Centre , where the surgery took place , and was bedridden while he was hooked to a machine that kept him alive .
“ Mr Bennett became known by millions of people around the world for his courage and steadfast will to live ,” said Dr Bartley P . Griffith , the professor of transplant surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who conducted the operation , in a press release .
He added that the groundbreaking procedure had nonetheless proved useful in keeping alive the hope of making animal organ transplants a reality . “ As with any first-in-the-world transplant surgery , this one led to valuable insights that will hopefully inform transplant surgeons to improve outcomes and potentially provide lifesaving benefits to future patients .”
If the procedure can ultimately be shown to keep patients alive in the long term , it could save the lives of many who can ’ t find a suitable organ from human donors , given the severe shortage of donated organs around the world .
In the US , almost 110,000 people are on the transplant waiting list , and
17 of them die every day due to the dearth of donated organs , according to government data . Similarly , the number of daily deaths in Europe reached 21 in 2020 due to the lack of transplant organs , the Human Rights Channel estimated that year .
However , the practice of using animal organs for humans raises thorny ethical questions , with some activists considering it morally unacceptable .
“ Animals have a right to live their lives , without being genetically manipulated with all the pain and trauma this entails , only to be killed and their organs harvested ,” the animal rights group Animal Aid , told the BBC .
Dr Katrien Devolder , a fellow in bioethics at Oxford University , believes the practice of using gene-edited pigs would become acceptable only if we were sure “ they do not suffer unnecessary harm ,” according to the BBC .
“ Using pigs to produce meat is much more problematic than using them to save lives , but of course that ’ s no reason to ignore animal welfare here as well ,” she said .
28 MARCH 2022 GlobalHealthAsiaPacific . com