Sad Deaths Reveal Beauty of Transplantation

Yesterday’s arraignment of Dr. Oleg Davie on manslaughter charges for the liposuction related death of Isel Pineda, a heart transplant recipient, was tragic for a multitude of reasons. Yet, it also reveals the incredible success of heart transplantation from a unique perspective. This woman gained 8 years of additional life through the generous gift of her heart donor, the technical success of the organ recovery and transplant procedures, and the medical magic of immunosuppressant medications that prevented rejection of her replacement heart. And she apparently felt invested enough in her external appearance to invest a substantial amount of money in the liposuction procedure. Wow, what a transplant success story. Sad that it did not continue even longer.

It brings to mind a similar tale of wonder. Larry Hagman , the actor we loved to hate on Dallas, and loved to love on I Dream of Jeannie, lived 17 years with a liver transplant. He resumed acting with extreme success and his death was mourned world-wide despite the fact that he was an alcoholic and had had liver cancer. Transplantation with each of those diagnoses is highly controversial – and he survived 17 years. He certainly proved to be an appropriately selected transplant candidate. Naysayers should take note.

So, death should cause reflection on the content of a person’s life, not only sadness. We will all pass through the same moment. In the case of organ transplant recipients, appreciation of the second portion (or third or fourth!), of life extended through donation and transplantation should be central in our thoughts.

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