Copyright ©2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

IRA FLATOW, host:

Finally, we bid farewell to Dr. Michael DeBakey, who passed away after a long and fruitful life. You have read his - I'm sure - his obituary many times in the newspapers. He's a famous cardiologist, he's was heart surgeon, he was an innovator and an international hero.

He was also a very soft-spoken and gracious gentleman, and I'd like to play a bit for you of his last interview on this program in 2003, where I think his own words can best serve as his memorial.

Dr. MICHAEL DEBAKEY (Cardiovascular Surgeon and Pioneer): I was part of those developed cardiovascular surgery. In the early 60s, we began working in research laboratories to see if we could use the bypass principle on the coronary arteries. We had already begun to use the bypass principle for the legs, so the artery blocked in the legs, and it worked very effectively. In 1964, I published an article in the Scientific Journal of our experience with dogs, and which I said that - in the conclusion, that the result showed about a 50-percent-success rate, and we needed to improve that before we could go to humans.

In the 1966, I had a patient that was scheduled not for a coronary bypass, but for what we call an endarterectomy. That's a different kind of procedure in which you go in and remove the plaque, and then restore the continuity of the artery. But unfortunately, we couldn't do it. Sometimes the plague is so intimately adherent to the wall of the artery, you can't remove it. And so in desperation, I decided I'd did what I was been - what I'd been doing in experimental laboratory. I just took a piece of vein out his leg, and did the bypass, just like we did it in the animal.

FLATOW: Mm-hm.

Dr. DEBAKEY: And fortunately, it worked and it was successful, you see. And the fact that it was successful, was very important, because unless - you know, unless it's successful, you don't have much stimulus to proceed with that procedure. But it was so successful that that gave us a great deal of the courage in other words took proceed, and we'd began proceeding cautiously to take on more cases, and in time we accumulated enough to be able to present at meetings. I think being a physician is one of the really great callings in human endeavor. One of the most satisfying careers you can have. Now, if you want to get rich of course, you go into business, but if you want a very satisfying career, you can have one. You can have one in medicine, very, very - I think, in a very effective way.

So, I don't agree with those who take this pessimistic attitude about the future of medicine. I think the future of medicine is very exciting. Now, that is not to say that I'm satisfied with the health care of the nation, I'm not. I've been a very severe critic of the health care of the nation, because I think it's badly organized. I think it's most unfortunate that the - we don't give the priority that health deserves nationally, both in terms of the public health and prevention, and in terms of medical care. You know, so see, I feel very strongly that every human being has the right to freedom which we have in our country, and the right of good health, which is a part of living.

I mean, if you don't have good health, you're not living well, and you can't be satisfied with your life, no matter what you do. And I think that in a comparison society such as ours, we should provide good health care to every citizen, whether or not they're able to pay. I'm not saying it ought to be, you know, a government-controlled care, not all.

FLATOW: Mm-hm.

Dr. DEBAKEY: As a matter of fact, I've been a little suspicious of government control over the care. But, as a society, we in society should provide good health care to all of our members, that's what I'm saying.

FLATOW: In his own words, Dr. Michael DeBakey who died one week ago, today. He will be missed. That's about all the time we have for Science Friday today.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.