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Indian pioneer of pig organ transplant appears exclusively for TIL online

On the 7th of January, US doctors transplanted a pig’s heart into a patient, in an attempt to save his life. There’s a serious shortage of human organs around the world. If the patient does well, it’ll be good news for patients awaiting transplants. Still, the US transplant is not a medical ‘first’. Indian pioneer of pig organ transplant, Dr Dhaniram Baruah had beaten the Americans by a quarter of a century. Way back in 1997, the UK-trained surgeon had transplanted a pig’s heart into a human being. Though he can’t speak, the 72 year old is proud of his early achievement. Research scientist Dr Saigeeta Achrekar has worked closely with Dr Barua since 1990. She, too, praises the achievement of the American doctors. But Achrekar also points out, that the procedure followed by Baruah was different. But after the patient’s death, the Assam government of the time, jailed Baruah for violating the Organs Transplant Act. When he returned to his research institute and animal farm after 40 days, he found that they had been vandalized. The memory of that humiliation and the ‘torture’ he is reported to have suffered in jail, upsets him even today. Whether because of the pandemic, or the continuous brain drain from India, both the central and state governments are now developing infrastructure and investing in medical research on a large scale. But to thousands of talented medicos across India, Dr Baruah’s moving anger will remind them that their hopes and dreams are fragile, if they are not nurtured and supported – well in time.

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