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Organ Transplant Pioneer Thomas Starzl Dies At 90

First Posted: Mar 06, 2017 07:35 PM EST
Birmingham Hospital Conducts Kidney Transplant
Consultant Surgeon Andrew Ready and his team conducts a live donor kidney transplant at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.
(Photo : Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Any medical television show or movie would have its audience believe that its characters are all the best in their respective fields, weirdly all working in the same hospital. However, in the real world, an actual medical marvel passed away.

Thomas Starzl, the pioneer for liver transplant, died peacefully at his home at the age of 90, as announced by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Starzl was known for his work in neuroscience, metabolism, transplantation and immunology. His teachings brought life and hope to patients around the globe, as medical professionals and researchers were given the capacity to practice better medicine.

According to NPR, Thomas Starzl did not start his profession with such high regard from his peers. He drew his fair share of criticisms in the past, when he was just beginning his experiments with transplantation. It took time to perfect the process. He led a team of surgeons in performing the first ever liver transplant in 1963. Unfortunately, the patient did not survive the operation due to excessive blood loss.

Two months later, he attempted the same operation on a patient with liver cancer -- and believed the operation to be a success until the man died three weeks later from blood clotting. Still, he continued researching and working on improving the procedure. By late 1970s, the survival rate of liver transplant patients rose to 40 percent.

CBS News reported, however, that despite the number of surgeries made by the doctor, Thomas Starlz said in his 1992 autobiography that he was "sickend with fear" each time he did so. Still, this did not deter him from doing his research. Starzl's list of accomplishments included inventing a way to route blood supply to the liver to help make surgeries easier. He discovered how a body helps accept foreign organs.

Despite his achievements, his family said in a statement that he should be remembered best as a teacher and a friend. "Nobody who spent time with Thomas Starzl could remain unaffected."

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