The pig-heart transplant story is even more interesting than I expected!

Not only is the surgeon, Dr. Robert Montgomery, married to opera singer Denyce Graves, but he’s a heart transplant recipient himself, because of a rare genetic disorder. He was desperate enough to be willing to receive a heart from someone who had hepatitis C, for which he later received treatment.

I do remember Baby Fae from the early 1980s (a newborn who got a baboon heart, and lived with it for several weeks) and have seen stories about animal organs being used back in the day. This heart was genetically altered to also contain human genes; we’ll see what happens to the patient.

ETA: Dr. Montgomery was not the surgeon who did the direct transplant, but he was involved in the process. He specializes in kidney transplantation.

Who gets the pork chops?


That isn’t the only fascinating wrinkle in the story:

Interesting. I wonder if his SOCIAL history actually made him ineligible.

The Times today had a discussion with his doctor who maintained that he felt an obligation to treat everyone equally and not look at their social value. Or something like that. Anyway, he is a guinea pig and likely won’t survive very long.

His victim died 19 years after the attack, having been seriously ill (and totally paralyzed) for the rest of his life. It was a really ugly story.

Imprisoned felons receive “regular” transplanted organs.

I remember in the early days of kidney transplants. The potential recipients’ files were reviewed by a committee. A lot of ethical qualities were weighed to make the final decision as to the actual recipient.

Years later, a group of transplant recipients of a variety of organs were interviewed on a TV show. One gentleman had a new heart, and he introduced himself as an owner of an adult book store in Las Vegas.

I realized then, things had really CHANGED.


What’s wrong with that? I mean, seriously. Is there something ethically wrong with owning an adult book store or is there a point I missed?

WAG, here: they genetically modified the pig heart in order to reduce the chance of rejection.

It makes me wonder if the recipient had some sort of immunologic problem that would have been a contraindication for lifelong immunosuppression normally associated with organ transplantation, and that eliminate him from UNOS candidacy.

I doubt any such modification to a human organ is currently practicable, but … again … no idea on that one.

Or maybe the rejection chances are just thought/known to be wildly higher with a pig heart. Dunno’.

[I keep adding] But he already has a pig valve, so … ?

The social history is STILL taken into an account. For example, an incarcerated person would have an easier time getting their meds than a person who has no permanent address. Also, and granted this was in 1994, I did clinicals on a transplant unit, and their rule for doing transplants on people who destroyed their organs due to drug abuse was that the person had to be “clean” before they became terminally ill. This issue came up when they did a kidney transplant on a woman who was in recovery from meth addiction, and later, my friend’s BIL was considered for a liver transplant, but he didn’t stop drinking until he became too sick to do so, and he was rejected for this and possibly some other reasons.

There was (and still is, TBH) a lot of controversy about Dick Cheney’s heart transplant, but truthfully, at age 71 he was near the bottom of the list anyway, but he got a transplant because a suitable heart was found. UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) is anonymous and uses codes to determine eligibility and “place on the list.”

The recipient died yesterday (Tuesday, the 8th). This story said that he appeared to be improving, and then his condition started deteriorating rapidly a couple days before he died.

Hey, two months is pretty good for the first attempt.

I thought so too.

The first thing I wondered was if he was messing up on taking his meds again, which is one of the reasons he was denied a transplant in the first place. I see he never left the hospital tho, so that shouldn’t have been a problem.

The story I saw mentioned that no cause of death had been made public yet. But I guess there will be a thorough autopsy and we will know whether it was rejection.

The heart rejected him.

That’s if his family wishes to release that information.

I’m sure we will know since he was participating in a study with the transplant. They are going to want to publish the results of the study and I don’t think the family would try to stop it even if they could.

I thought the whole gene modification thing was so the body wouldn’t reject the heart, but apparently that’s wrong. Wouldn’t his medical team have noticed signs of rejection if that was the problem?

I have absolutely no expertise in this, but my understanding is that heart transplant recipients usually undergo rather frequent endomyocardial biopsies (EMBs) in order to look for the pathologic signs of rejection.

The genetic modification to Arnold Ziffel’s heart may also not have been 100% effective in preventing rejection (whether or not the patient complied perfectly with his med regimen).

RIP, and … OINK.

Who saw this one coming ?

[the preview window tells the tale … unless you want details]