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Israel’s First Heart Transplant Patient Holding His Own in Petach Tikvah Hospital

Israel’s first heart transplant patient, 41-year-old Itzhak Sullam, was apparently holding his own, although still unconscious, according to a bulletin from Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikvah today. The bulletin said his new heart was functioning normally and there were no signs of rejection. His breathing and blood pressure were normal and the fact that he has not regained consciousness was not “a cause for concern,” the bulletin said. Doctors were maintaining a 24-hour watch over the patient.

A mystery surrounds the identity of the donor of the heart that was transplanted into Mr. Sullam’s body in an eight-hour operation performed by a team headed by Dr. Morris Levi last Friday. For undisclosed reasons, Dr. Levi and hospital authorities have kept it a closely guarded secret. Press reports that the donor was a traffic accident victim gave rise to claims from at least three families that the donor was their relative. One family wrote to the Ministry of Health and to the Chief Rabbinate alleging that the heart was taken from a relative without their knowledge or consent.

The attitude of the Chief Rabbinate was still obscure, Nothing was said to indicate approval or disapproval of the operation as far as Halacha – Jewish religious law – was concerned. Observers recalled that the Ministry for Religious Affairs asked the Chief Rabbinate six months ago to appoint a committee to study the issue and make a clear statement on heart transplants. Nothing was done however and the Rabbinate was reported only now to be considering the appointment of such a committee.

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