Christiaan Barnard

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Christiaan Barnard (1968)

Christiaan Neethling Barnard (born November 8, 1922 in Beaufort West , South Africa ; † September 2, 2001 in Paphos , Cyprus ) was a South African heart surgeon and pioneer in the field of heart transplants .

On December 3, 1967, a South African transplant team led by Christiaan Barnard performed the world's first heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town . The patient Louis Washkansky survived the operation for 18 days.

In 2004, Barnard was voted second behind Nelson Mandela on the list of the 100 greatest South Africans of all time ("100 Greatest South Africans of all time"). He has been a legend not only in South Africa since the 1960s.


Barnard grew up as one of four sons in a Boer family of preachers in the South African Cape Province in poor conditions. In 1948 he married Aletta Gertruida Louw, the couple had a daughter and a son. After the divorce in 1970, he married 18-year-old Barbara Maria Zoellner and the couple had two sons. In 1982 the marriage was divorced. In 1988 Karin Setzkorn became his third wife, with whom he had a daughter and a son. In 2000 this marriage also ended in divorce. While on vacation in Cyprus in 2001, Barnard succumbed to respiratory failure due to an asthmatic attack . After the cremation of the body, the urn was transferred to South Africa and buried in the garden of the Dutch Reformed Church in Beaufort West .

education and profession

Like his brother Marius, who later worked on his transplant team , Barnard attended hometown high school and studied medicine at the University of Cape Town and the University of Minnesota . He received his surgical training in the USA, operated open heart surgery with the heart surgeon Clarence Walton Lillehei in Minneapolis and familiarized himself with the latest techniques of the still experimental heart transplantation . As a gift from his American colleagues, he brought a heart-lung machine to South Africa in 1958 . There he worked as a general practitioner in Cape Town and at the Groote Schuur Hospital . He quickly became a surgical assistant doctor, then director of the “Medical School” at the University of Cape Town and, at the age of only 40, was appointed professor of thoracic surgery. He performed around a thousand heart operations using various techniques.

Using a modified method developed by his American colleagues, Barnard, previously hardly noticed, carried out the world's first successful heart transplant on December 3, 1967.

In 1983 he had to give up the operation because he suffered from arthritis and his hands were particularly affected. In 1985 he took up a scientific position at the Heart Center in Oklahoma , USA.


On December 3, 1967, Christiaan Barnard headed the 31-person transplant team that succeeded in performing a human heart transplant for the first time . The patient, Louis Washkansky , had the heart of Denise Darvall , who died in a car accident at the age of 25, transplanted in a five-hour operation at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town . The operation was successful in that Washkansky survived it. To prevent rejection of his body on the foreign organ Washkanskys immune forces were largely suspended. He died after 18 days due to an infection at a pneumonia .

The second patient, Philip Blaiberg , had an operation on January 2, 1968 and lived with the transplanted heart for 18 months.

Another important member of Barnard's team was the colored South African Hamilton Naki , who made significant contributions to the development of the surgical technique, which, however , had to be concealed at the time due to apartheid .

In 1974 Barnard succeeded in proving that two hearts can beat in the human chest: He carried out the first “piggyback” heart transplant (heterotopic transplant ), a measure to support the work of the new heart with the work of the old heart.

Barnard as a media star

His first TV appearance in Germany made headlines, as Barnard was featured on the cover of a magazine with a well-known nude model in his arms. Barnard was now a media star and favored a kind of jet set lifestyle himself. In his autobiography "The Second Life", Barnard is self-critical about this phase and admits that his family life has suffered as a result. But he did not neglect his profession and his patients. The Groote Schuur enjoyed a worldwide reputation and attracted international patients.

The role of Barnard and his patients Washkansky and Blaiberg for journalism at that time was presented in detail by the media researcher and later medical journalist Eckart Roloff in a journalistic dissertation in Salzburg; it first appeared in print a good 40 years later and has an up-to-date preface and an epilogue.

Barnard spent his old age in Austria , where he founded the Christiaan Barnard Foundation to support disadvantaged children around the world, and on his farm in Beaufort West. According to the APA , he had been granted Austrian citizenship two days before his death and more than a year after his application .


  • Human cardiac transplant . 1968.
  • One life ( my way as a doctor and a person ). 1969.
  • Heart Attack: You Don't Have To Die . 1971.
  • The unwanted . 1974.
  • South Africa: Sharp Dissection, In the Night Season . 1977.
  • Best Medicine . 1979.
  • Good Life - Good Death . 1980.
  • The Arthritis Handbook, The Best of Barnard, The Living Body, The Faith . 1984.
  • Your Healthy Heart . 1985.
  • The Second Life . 1993. (In the German translation: The second life. Memories of the world-famous cardiac surgeon. Piper, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-492-03651-1 .)
  • Fifty Ways to a Healthy Heart . 2000.

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Eckart Roloff: The journalistic discovery of the patient. A press analysis on medical journalism and the first heart transplants. Nomos, Baden-Baden 2013, ISBN 978-3-8487-0731-7 .
  2. APA: Cardiac surgeon became an Austrian two days before his death - Barnard died of an asthma attack according to an autopsy, September 4, 2001, accessed on May 22, 2018.