In 1967, Professor Christian Barnard conducted the world's first heart transplant in South Africa. Even today, many people can recall the name of the recipient, Louis Washkansky. Sadly, Mr. Washkansky did not live too long, but surgical and medical practice had turned a major corner. Today, > 10,000 heart transplants are conducted annually worldwide,1 along with a quarter of a million other organ transplants.
In 1968, then Editor in Chief of Diseases of the Chest, Alfred Soffer, MD, Master FCCP, commissioned three fascinating articles relating to the topic of heart transplants. The three august authors were from quite different walks of life but nonetheless offered very valid viewpoints on a highly controversial topic. Rabbi Herbert Bronstein2 approached the question of “The Power Over Life and Death”; Dr. Dwight Emery Harken,3 a cardiac surgeon, provided the perspective, “One Surgeon Looks at Human Heart Transplantation”; while attorney Richard P. Bergen, Esq,4 tackled “Legal Regulation of Heart Transplants.” It would be inappropriate to add to these discussions; but, needless to say, it was a brave and controversial commission and one that added to the mess room chats of the late 1960s.