SALT LAKE CITY -- Dr. Barney Clark was a willing recipient of the world's first permanent artificial heart, but je also had to absolve the University of Utah of any responsibility should he die from the operation.
Clark, 61, of Seattle, was required to sign an 11-page consent form stating he knew of the risks he faced and admitting he would die without the man-made organ developed by university researchers.
'I recognize if the artificial heart device fails, death or serious injury is the near certain result,' stated one clause. 'I nevertheless accept the risks of substantial and serious harm, including death, in the hope that the beneficial effects of the implantation of the artificial heart device can be demonstrated.'
As it turned out, Clark was so near death that Dr. William DeVries said the retired dentist's heart would have failed completely if they had waited for the scheduled Thursday 8 a.m. start of the operation.
DeVries, head of the Utah surgical implant team, ordered the operation pushed up by nine hours after Clark's heart developed a dangerously irregular beat and slowed dramatically.
The consent form said Clark understood there was 'no further medical therapy that will arrest the course of this deterioration of my heart.
'Although no specific life span can be estimated, it is probable that I will die much sooner than most others of my age and that, while alive, I will continue to be severely restricted due to my failing heart,' the statement read.
The consent requirements also made it clear Clark was willing to accept the artificial heart as 'a final life-sustaining device,' that he undersood the procedure was experimental, and that his lifestyle would be significantly different with the artificial heart.
'I also understand, if the artificial heart is installed, I can anticipate considerable post-operative pain and discomfort similar or greater than that which would be experienced following the usual type of cardiovascular surgery.'
Clark also had to admit he knew the surgery was a difficult procedure with real risks to his survival, and the university made no representations of success and did not guarantee any length of time the heart would function.