Artificial Heart Devices

In its never ending pursuit of advancement, science has reached a
crucial biotechnological plateau, the creation of artificial organs. Such a
concept may seem easy to comprehend until one considers the vast knowledge
required to provide a functional substitute for one of nature\'s creations. One
then realizes the true immensity of this breakthrough. Since ancient times,
humans have viewed the heart as more than just a physical part of the body. It
has been thought the seat of the soul, the source of emotion, and the center of
each individual\'s existence. For many years, doctors and researchers left the
heart untouched because they thought it was too delicate, too crucial to
withstand the rigors of surgery. However, the innate human desire to achieve
brought about the invention of the artificial heart. The potential for such
inventions are enormous. According to the American Heart Association, there are
between 16,000 and 40,000 possible recipients of artificial heart devices under
the age of sixty-five. If perfected, it would enable us to save thousands of
human lives.
In considering the full impact of artificial heart devices on society,
we must not narrow our thinking to include only the beneficial possibilities.
There exist moral, ethical, and economic factors that accompany these new
innovations to humanity. Who will receive these brilliant inventions?
Obviously not all of the patients will get transplants, so selection criteria
must be established. The high price of artificial heart devices and their
implantation will eliminate some candidates. Unfortunately, this is not fair.
The rich, in essence, can buy life, whereas the poor are abandoned to die in a
diseased state. A thorough analysis of the implications of the implantation of
such devices reveals not only selection and economic consideration, but
mortality and ethics as well. Many contest that it is simply wrong to tamper
with the ways and creations of nature. By prolonging life through unnatural
means were are defeating natures foremost tenet of the "survival of the
fittest." We are preserving the weaker gene pools and contributing to the
deterioration of the human species. These and other considerations play a vital
role in determining the artificial transplants actual benefit to the
contemporary world and the world of tomorrow. A full-scale incorporation of the
artificial heart devices technology into the medical world could have serious
consequences, all of which must be considered before such a rash step is taken.
Artificial heart devices are indeed a biotechnical wonder. Although they are
not yet perfected for permanent implantation, they are the most reliable
substitutes for bad heart parts until other functional, transplantables can be
located. The Jarvik-7 was the first artificial device heart which was created
by Symbion Incorporated. This system was used to replace the heart of Dr.
Barney Clark, the first artificial heart patient. The device lasted for one-
hundred and twelve days before Mr. Clark sank into an agony of complications and
died. The Jarvik-7 was implanted four more times to replace failing hearts,
with similar results, before the federal authorities halted the procedure.
Other devices have made progress since the Jarvik-7. One of the more successful
inventions is the left ventricle assist device (LAVD). This device incorporates
a host of hard won technological advances. Perhaps the most important is its
"bio-compatible" materials, which have allowed the LAVD to function without
problems for well over a year in a patient\'s body. The LAVD has been implanted
in more than seven hundred people for up to seventeen months, as they have
awaited human heart transplants(Stipp 38). It is difficult to fathom the great
scientific ingenuity that was required to develop these devices. However, we
must not be blinded from seeing the whole picture. In assuming its role as a
boost to humanity, these inventions bring many concerns. The issue of
selecting patients for implantation is an important one. There are three
alternatives for selecting patients who should have priority to receive
artificial heart devices. The first decision- based medical criteria, which
seems to make the most sense. This method is meant to choose the ideal patient;
the patient who can reap the most benefits not only for himself, but for
researchers. Therefore, researchers look for a subject who will yield the
information sought and thus produce the gains of new knowledge and therapies.
In choosing a subject in this manner, researchers are governed by a principle of
nonmaleficence, which means they can do no harm solely in order to further the
experimental aspect of the operation. This rule prevents the "mad scientist"
mentality from taking hold in experimental research. As Claude Bernard, the
father of experimental research stated: "The principle of medical mortality