In a medical first, doctors transplanted a pig heart into a patient in a last-ditch effort to save his life and a Maryland hospital said Monday that he’s doing well three days after the highly experimental surgery. While it’s too soon to know if the operation really will work, it marks a step in the decades-long quest to one day use animal organs for life-saving transplants.
In 1997, Dr Dhani Ram Baruah, along with Hong Kong surgeon Dr Jonathan Ho Kei-Shing, carried out a pig-to-human heart and lung transplant in Guwahati (India). The transplant stirred controversy all over and both the doctors were arrested within a fortnight for culpable homicide and under the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994, and imprisoned for 40 days.
The fault of Dr Baruah was that he was on the wrong side of the laws prevailing at that time. But now after 25 years USA has provided evidence that he was scientifically ahead of his times; hence punished and sent to jail for the same reason. Instead of updating the laws, accepting and promoting the scientific advancement and encouraging the brilliance of the doctor, he was put in jail. The result is that now everyone is hailing the feat of doctors in USA for the same surgery that Dr Baruah dared to perform 25 years ago.
In a patient with terminal heart failure, life is only possible if heart transplant is done. Human heart is difficult to be procured.
The point to ponder is that whether Laws should be made or may be updated to promote or help scientific brilliance or it is wise to follow them blindly without application to future wisdom. Instead of punishing and sending Dr Baruah to jail, Laws could have been modified or updated to help the path breaking advancement, which could have helped patients and saved lives.
Such high handedness of authorities just point to an ecosystem, where scientific advancements and individual brilliance are not respected.
As doctors in the United States hail the path-breaking surgery in which a patient is recovering after receiving a heart from a genetically modified pig in Maryland, it evokes memories of an Indian doctor who had attempted the same over 20 years ago in Assam.
For those who haven’t read, US doctors transplanted a pig heart into David Bennett, a 57-year-old Maryland handyman, in a last-ditch effort to save his life and a Maryland hospital said that he’s doing well three days after the highly experimental surgery.
We go back in time to take a look at the case in which Dr Dhani Ram Baruah, a transplant surgeon from Assam conducted a pig-to-human heart and lung transplant in Guwahati and why that incident got shrouded in controversy and led to him being imprisoned for 40 days.
In 1997, Dr Dhani Ram Baruah, along with Hong Kong surgeon Dr Jonathan Ho Kei-Shing, carried out a pig-to-human heart and lung transplant in Guwahati.
A Times of India report says that Dr Baruah transplanted a pig’s heart into a 32-year-old man, who had a ventricular septal defect, or hole in the heart.
According to Dr Baruah, the surgery — conducted at his very own facility, the Dhani Ram Baruah Heart Institute, and Institute of Applied Human Genetic Engineering at Sonapur outside Guwahati — was completed in 15 hours.
However, the 32-year-old man “developed new anti-hyperacute rejection biochemical solution to treat donor’s heart and lung and blind its immune system to avoid rejection”, reported the Indian Express, and he died a week later.
The transplant stirred controversy all over and both the doctors were arrested within a fortnight for culpable homicide and under the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994, and imprisoned for 40 days.
The Assam government formed an inquiry into the case and found that the procedure was unethical.
The inquiry also found that the Dr Dhaniram Heart Institute and Research Centre had “neither applied for nor obtained registration” as required under the transplant laws.
What happened next?
After being in jail for 40 days, the doctor returned to his clinic but found it to be destroyed. A Times of India report added that he spent the next 18 months under virtual house arrest.
But, the doctor, who faced taunts, continued his research.
Dr Baruah hit the headlines again in 2008 when he claimed that he had developed a ‘genetically engineered’ vaccine that would correct congenital heart defects.
In 2015, he once again became popular after claiming to have discovered the ‘cure’ for HIV/AIDS and that he had ‘cured’ 86 people in the past seven-eight years.
He also wrote to the UNAIDS, WHO and the National Institute of Health of USA to tell them of his ‘successes’ and was open to scrutiny.