Regulation and Research: The Case Study of the Artificial Heart

The Artificial Heart archive contains a variety newspaper articles, photographs, and videos all surrounding the development and first transplantation of the artificial heart. The archive presents these two sides of the artificial heart’s initial development by following both Dr. Michael DeBakey, who was the official principle investigator of the artificial heart research program, and Dr. Denton Cooley, who became the first to transplant the artificial heart. Using the drama surrounding Dr. Cooley’s controversial transplantation of the first artificial heart as a case study, our group hopes to examine the role policy and regulation play in both medical procedures and research and to speculate what happens when one follows these regulations and when one defies them.


DeBakey and Cooley and the Artificial Heart

Specifically, our project will explore Dr. Cooley’s decisions, relating them to how his actions were perceived both back then and how they would be perceived today. Doing so would open many avenues of exploration, such as whether his decision to transplant the artificial heart and ignore regulations advanced research or whether his decision to do so was unethical. Alternatively, we could explore how his decision to compete with DeBakey for the completion of the artificial heart rather than cooperate with him could have made an artificial that was not optimal and how that compares to the competitive/cooperative environment of medical research today. (We will probably choose to focus on only one of these avenues of exploration).

We will need to do further research about the regulations and ethics of the healthcare environment back then and today to fully gain the understanding necessary to relate the two. We hope to find the information necessary through the Fondren database, Google, newspaper websites, and interviewing professors, researchers, and physicians.

We plan to develop our teaching module to best inform undergraduate students studying or interested in health policy in order to give them a better idea of how to best shape health policy to accommodate both research and actual treatment in the future. We plan to make a website in which students can begin by exploring the background of the artificial heart and Cooley’s decision, then consider the many implications that this event had in terms of medical research advances and ethics, and finally relate these implications to the dynamic of medical regulation, research, and ethics today. We hope that by presenting them with a sequential and informative website, they will develop policies that would not be overly stringent as to stunt the advance of research, yet not so lax as to ignore ethical implications.

Picture source:


One thought on “Regulation and Research: The Case Study of the Artificial Heart

  1. Hi Kevin,
    I think you and your group have designed an interesting project, and one that is relevant to our current society. Analyzing history is often important to learn things that we did correctly and things that we did wrong. However, the division between right and wrong is not always clear, because, just as seen with Dr. Cooley, unethical decisions in the past may have resulted in a advanced research and a higher standard of living. Additionally, the different environments in the past may have led to different outcomes. The government and legal regulations play a big role in every aspect of research; some say they impede research while others say they develop ethical protocols. I agree with your decision to educate undergraduate students in health policy, because they are the future of regulation in the healthcare industry. However, I would also recommend adding groups such as medical students or current physicians to your audience. This is important because physicians must also encounter ethical discussions and interpret ethical policies so that they can be implemented properly. Health policy makers design the legal framework for research and development, but its the physicians and researchers that understand and implement these policies. For example, Dr. Cooley was a physician, not a policy analyst, who made an ethical choice that dramatically changed the face of cardiovascular surgery. Overall, I am interested to see the shape that your project takes, and I hope that the final outcome will be applied to current problems facing our society.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s