April 28th, 2013
Stories from a Heart Transplant Pioneer: Blogging from ISHLT 2013
William K. Cornwell III, M.D., is blogging for CardioExchange from the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation (ISHLT)’s Annual Meeting in Montreal.
This year, the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation (ISHLT) has given the Pioneer in Transplantation award to Dr. Jack Copeland. During his address, Dr. Copeland led us on an interesting walk through the history of heart transplantation. One of the highlights of his speech was a story from 1972, when transplant surgeons were actually accused of murder after harvesting organs from a patient. Only after proving that the donor had suffered brain death were they found not guilty. Another interesting story involved a surgeon who harvested an organ, and then got a flat tire while driving the heart back to the hospital and had to change his own tire before implanting the heart into the recipient. Lastly, Dr. Copeland reminisced about the first transplant he performed in Arizona, on a patient named Dutch Tarr. Though Tarr was eligible for Medicare, his claim for the procedure was denied. Tarr successfully sued Medicare for reimbursement of the procedure. The case led to the National Heart Transplantation Study, with the objective of determining whether heart transplant was cost-effective, necessary, and reasonable. This study paved the way for all future heart transplants to be reimbursable procedures. Dr. Copeland has had a wonderful career, and it was great to listen to a man who is etched in the history books — truly, a living legend.