Introspection time for Indians as Pig Heart surgery makes global headlines
When the news of team of United States transplanting pig heart on a man is making headlines across the globe, for us Indians it is an introspection time for we Indians as to how we dealt with our own pioneer Dr Dhani Ram Barua who conducted the same kind of surgery 25 years ago.
While the US is celebrating the transplantation of pig’s heart to 57-year old David Bennet in Baltimore’s Maryland Medical Centre hospital as a ‘bold experiment’ having survived for three days after the surgery. The US doctors claimed that ‘a heart from genetically modified animal can function in the human body without immediate rejection’.
“It was either to die or do this transplant. I want to live. I know it is shot in the dark. It is a shot in the dark but it’s my last choice”, Bennet said before surgery.
Let’s shift the scene to a small suburban heart clinic in Guwahati run by a U K returned surgeon which conducted a similar surgery on the new year day on 1997 on a 32 year old terminally ill patient Purno Saikia suffering Ventricular Septal Defect or hole in the heart resulting in mixing up of pure and impure blood. Assisting Dr Barua was a Hong Kong doctor Jonathan Ho and a local operator of heart lung machine James. Saikia survived for seven days and died of ‘septemic shock’on January seven, making him the longest xeno-plantation survivor in human history.
Once the news became public all the he’ll descended on Dr Barua and his associates who were jailed for 40 days on the charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. By the time he came out of prison, his clinical facility and the pig farm in the suburban Guwahati was burnt and destroyed and the authorities could never trace the culprits.
Initially the authorities thought that Barua was a quack but the investigations showed that he was a practicing doctor returning from Glasgow and the surgery had marks of a professional. The doctor contended that there was way he could obtain the consent of the donor as it was a pig and killing a pig was not a crime in India. He had not violated any law since Assam Assembly had not adopted Xeno-transplantation Act and while the government claimed that the heart facility didn’t obtain a license for Xeno-transplantation.
The forensic science report from Kolkata has confirmed Dr Barua’s claims but was never made public. Some media reports as well as the sources at the institute have confirmed unofficially vindicating our version, Dr Geetha, Dr Barua’s long time associate told this correspondent.
Attempts by this Correspondent to Dr Barua for a comment no doubt elicited a comment but could be deciphered by only who can interpret his way of communication.
He took up the matter with National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) but got no relief. It was at this stage this Correspondent of a national news agency in New Delhi came to know of the incident and reported the matter. The news was a big hit as far as coverage was concerned but he didn’t get any relief.
After his arrest Dr Barua was not the same and his surgical career came to an abrupt halt. A brain surgery following a paralytic attack in 2016 has affected the doctor his speaking skills badly. Only those who know him can understand his mind said Dr Geetha.
She said Dr Barua had to rebuild the heart clinic facility which was attacked many times by unidentified interests. When everything seemed to be over, his surgery has come as a shock, she remarked.
It is a sad story of an innovator stifled by a system who preferred to destroy a promising career adhering to red tape rather than facilitating a person wanting to tread an unusual path. Imagine if our system in Guwahati and New Delhi had taken a liberal view 25 years ago. Science is a loser so also India.