Louisiana-born heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey dead at 99



The father of modern heart surgery, Louisiana native Dr. Michael E. DeBakey, died last night in Houston. He was 99.

The New York Times has a full obituary of the Lake Charles native and Tulane graduate, who completed his training at Charity Hospital in 1935. According to the Times, by the time Dr. DeBakey retired from surgery in his eighties, he had performed 60,000 operations.

Also in the Times: a fascinating story of how last year, at the age of 98, Dr. DeBakey became the oldest patient to undergo the heart surgery he devised:

As his health deteriorated and he became unresponsive in the hospital in early February, his surgical partner of 40 years, Dr. George P. Noon, decided an operation was the only way to save his life. But the hospital’s anesthesiologists refused to put Dr. DeBakey to sleep because such an operation had never been performed on someone his age and in his condition. Also, they said Dr. DeBakey had signed a directive that forbade surgery.

As the hospital’s ethics committee debated in a late-night emergency meeting on the 12th floor of Methodist Hospital, Dr. DeBakey’s wife, Katrin, barged in to demand that the operation begin immediately.

In the end, the ethics committee approved the operation; an anesthesiology colleague of Dr. DeBakey’s, who now works at a different hospital, agreed to put him to sleep; and the seven-hour operation began shortly before midnight on Feb. 9.

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