Cardiac specialist shares insights about heart transplants, ethics

Last in the Mini-Med Series 2019

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Photographer: Claire R.

Dr. Jai Udassi explained how heart transplant survival rates over time are affected by multiple factors.

Claire R., News Section Editor

Dr. Jai Udassi, the director of the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Services at Sidra, came to ASD to give a presentation on heart transplants on Mar. 25. During the presentation, he spoke to students about the ethics of heart transplants and what transplants involve for the donors, recipients, and doctors going through the process.

He discussed how donors were matched to recipients, and how hearts were transported to the correct location within a certain timeframe so that the heart could still be transplanted. Along with explaining how technology was used to transport hearts, Dr. Udassi also touched on the ethics of getting donors and what a patient being brain-dead meant.

Doctors have to give their patients the best treatment possible, but if one of their patients is declared brain-dead, meaning that the patient has lost all brain function, then the patient is considered dead, even if they are still able to breathe. In medical terms, death is not when the heart stops beating, but when the brain no longer sends signals to the rest of the body. The medical staff then have to go speak to the patient’s family to ask them to give their relative as a donor to save someone else’s life. It can be a difficult conversation for grieving families to go through, but for some people, it gives them peace. Other hearts come from people who decided in advance to donate their organs once they died.

Doctors are needed for these operations, so if someone wants to go into the medical field, where should they start? Hand-on experience is always a good thing to have, and Dr. Udassi stated that students can come and visit the hospital to observe the medical staff as they work. Interested students are invited to participate in the volunteer program at Hamad Hospital.

Dr. Udassi emphasized many times throughout the presentation that one should never become a doctor for the money. Being a doctor is a job that demands hard work and empathy, as he explained. Though the road to becoming a doctor can be long and difficult, once you start working, you get to alleviate the suffering of others. “There are many ways to make good money,” he said. “Don’t come to medicine or any profession for money … because if you follow your passion [and] work hard, money will follow, no matter what you do.”