The first human heart transplant was performed in 1967 by Dr. Christiaan Barnard; the patient died after 18 days. Just 22 years later, this operation is performed on hundreds of patients every year--1,647 in 1988--and the survival rate is 72%.
Dr. William H. Frist is director of the heart and heart-lung transplantation program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and in "Transplant" he describes the professional struggles and ethical issues that surround the delicate surgery. His account follows a number of patients from the initial decision to undergo the operation, through the agonizing wait for an appropriate donor, to the actual surgery and recovery period.
Frist's main reason for writing the book is to persuade Americans to be practical and participate in a general system of organ donation; our disinclination to think about death hampers important medical developments that could save lives. The back jacket of the book carries a clip-out organ-donor card.