Letter from Eugene M. Bricker to Michael E. DeBakey
On April 22, 1966, DeBakey implanted his left ventricular assist device into a 65 year old coal miner with a badly damaged
heart. The device worked very well, but the patient died five days later. The operation was enthusiastically covered in the
press, which led some of DeBakey's medical colleagues, including Dr. Bricker, to accuse him of seeking publicity. At the
time, it was contrary to the AMA's ethical standards for physicians to advertise their services or to allow sensational
press coverage of their activities, among other things.
Number of Image Pages:
1 (86,159 Bytes)
1966-04-26 (April 26, 1966)
Bricker, Eugene M.
DeBakey, Michael E.
Courtesy of Katrin DeBakey.
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New Directions for Cardiac Surgery and for Baylor, 1963-2008
I am sorry I feel compelled to write this letter, but I must do so. I have talked to quite a few of our colleagues since the
advent of your last splurge of publicity and I find that the reaction is pretty much the same, though with varying degrees
of intensity, You are held in high regard by most people in your profession, by those who know you well and those who know
you only by name. You are admired for your accomplishments and for your contributions to surgery and to medicine. No one doubts
your ability, your sincerity, your energy or your dedication. In view of all this it is hard to understand why you will participate
in the promotion of a public
spectacle that, in my opinion, is an exhibition of extreme poor taste, is not in the best interest of surgery, and does not
serve the best interest of your patient or his family. What is your aim? If it is to justify the expenditure of huge sums
of grant money, this is something I can understand but would vehemently protest that the end does not justify the means. I
cannot imagine any other reason. To me and to those of our colleagues with whom I have discussed this matter the whole episode
has been distasteful and embarrassing. It seems also to be unfair to the many other people who are working in the same field,
but without the fan-fare you are capable of engendering.
As one of your friends who has known and admired you for years I am taking the liberty of saying that this incident was handled
in a way that I consider to be unethical and a discredit to the profession of surgery. These are strong words and I regret
feeling forced to say them.
I also feel that your actions should not go unnoticed by the official representatives of surgery of this country. To condone
this type of conduct on your part would open the door to similar activities by others whose aims might not be as altruistic
as I trust yours are. My first reaction was to send a copy of this letter to those official agencies that might be in a position
to take same type of action. This I have decided not to do. I am satisfied to make a vigorous personal protest and to urge
you to desist from this type of publicity promoting activity before you lose your friends and the admiration and respect of
the rest of the profession.