Magazine article Science News

Artificial Heart: The Debate Goes On

Magazine article Science News

Artificial Heart: The Debate Goes On

Article excerpt

Artificial heart: The debate goes on

Earlier this month, artificial hearts were implanted in three people in one week, including one in a woman who received a second artificial heart after a transplant failed. Is the artificial heart a valuable new device that can save the lives of tens of thousands of people in the United States each year? Or is it instead something that will prolong dying and drain precious medical resources?

These questions were debated last week by artificial heart inventor Robert Jarvik of Symbion, Inc., in Salt Lake City, and Daniel Callahan of the Hastings Center, a biomedical-ethics research institute in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. Their discussion was sponsored by the National Press Club, and occurred the same day a congressional committee held a hearing on the value of the device.

Past experience with the artificial heart, most notably in a Swedish recipient who lived for seven and a half months and during that time was able to climb five flights of stairs, " really showed us that we can achieve a good mobility and a good quality of life," Jarvik said.

But many recipients have suffered strokes and other problems. Only two of the five who received permanent implants are still alive, and both remain in the hospital. "We're not going to create healthy people with long life expectancies," Callahan said. "We're going to create people who are going to be chronically ill."

Of a recent study from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Md. …

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