Critics who say Barney B. Clark was too ill to become the first recipient of a mechanical heart do not realize the difficulty doctors faced in diagnosing the severity of his ailments, a spokesman for the University of Utah Medical Center says.
Moreover, criticisms of the heart implant by some members of the university's Institutional Review Board "appear severe because they are private conversations," spokesman John Dwan said Friday after transcripts of a board meeting were made public.
Minutes of the board's June 1 closed meeting were made public Friday by KUTV, an NBC television affiliate in Salt Lake City.
The transcripts show several board members feeling that doctors were too eager to find a recipient for the mechanical heart and weren't considering Clark's other health problems.
Clark, 62, a Seattle, Wash., dentist, died March 23 of multiple organ failure, 112 days after receiving the heart.
Doctors quoted in the minutes could not be reached for comment.
Clark had a lung ailment as well as heart trouble. Dwan said it is difficult, "if not impossible," for doctors to diagnose the severity of chronic pulmonary disease in patients suffering from terminal congestive heart failure. He said the effects of the two diseases are much the same.
Dwan said the university was concerned that disclosure of the doctors' discussion may put a damper on future deliberations by the board, because "members may feel that what they are saying is going to be reported publicly when in fact it shouldn't be."
The 16-member review board has been meeting periodically since Clark's death to discuss whether to allow a second implant and to set guidelines for the operation. No decision has been made.