Proposal for the Artificial Heart: When Does Regulation Become Impeding?

The subject of our archive—the feud and controversy surrounding the development and eventual transplantation of the artificial heart—presents the relationship between regulations and scientific advancements, made even more complex with the factors of personal ambition and ethical dilemmas. We will be focusing on the controversial feud between Dr. Cooley, the first heart surgeon to successfully transplant an artificial heart, and Dr. DeBakey, who developed the artificial heart.


The feud between Dr. Cooley and Dr. Debakey spanned a period of 40 years. (NYTimes)

Our archive will explore an instance when disregarding regulations advanced medical research—Dr. Cooley succeeded in transplanting the first artificial heart, but his motives and methods of doing so are questionable. We will also discuss the implications and various perspectives involved (some may argue that regulations are necessary to essentially, keep doctors and researchers “in check” because they have to follow specific guidelines before their research can be applied clinically. Others say regulations provide a sort of constant baseline to which discoveries must adhere to).

Because regulations are an issue that doctors and other medicinal practitioners have frequently run into (and thus, a project showing how regulations can prevent advancements will not change their perspective), our target audience will be undergraduate students interested in health policy. By learning about the complex association of regulations and advancements, these students can apply this knowledge as they begin to make policy/regulations.

We plan to use a WordPress website to concisely discuss the perspectives involved; each page will focus on a specific perspective (for example, one page will be dedicated to the benefits of regulations). For the perspective of scientific researchers, we may interview Rice professors, who can offer insight to what it is like to work in the competitive scientific field. Through the Fondren library database, we will conduct outside research government regulation of medicine (ex. FDA regulation) and the reasoning behind such regulation. In order to target our audience most effectively, we can look into current health policy programs at the undergraduate level (ex. Policy Studies major at Rice) and at the professional level (ex. Baylor College of Medicine’s Health Policy Program); this will be done through Rice’s and Baylor’s websites, respectively.

Ultimately, our project is meant to raise questions about the role of regulation in scientific research, all while considering the aspects of competition/personal gain and the duty of physicians/researchers to “do no harm.”


  1. “The Feud” (

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