Dr. Christiaan Barnard died of asthma, post-mortem shows

מתוך medicontext.co.il

PAPHOS, Cyprus (Reuters) – World-acclaimed heart surgeon Christiaan Barnard's own heart was in perfect condition when he died last Sunday aged 78, a pathologist in Cyprus revealed Tuesday.

But his lungs were ravaged by years of asthma, which finally killed him, state pathologist Eleni Antoniou told reporters. Dr. Barnard "died from a bronchial obstruction due to bronchial asthma which he had been suffering from" for a number of years, she said.

"We have ruled out heart failure. The heart of the deceased was in very good condition, I can say perfect," Dr. Antoniou said. "Generally, his lungs were in a very poor state, which in some way justified what happened," she added, flanked by Dr. Barnard's associates who traveled from Vienna, where Dr. Barnard had established a charity foundation named after him.

The pioneering South African surgeon, who made medical history in 1967 when he performed the world's first human heart transplant, died last Sunday at the poolside of a luxury hotel in the western resort of Paphos.

Dr. Barnard, who was vacationing alone, was well aware of his asthma condition and had been taking medication for it, Dr. Antoniou said. Seconds before he slipped into unconsciousness, witnesses saw him grappling with an asthma inhaler, his agent Walter Lutschinger told Reuters earlier. He had also suffered an attack over dinner the night before he died.

"His biggest private fear was an asthma attack; he would be very nervous at leaving his spray anywhere," Lutschinger said. "He always said he knew he would never die of a heart attack."

Dr. Barnard, who Lutschinger said had performed more than 150 heart transplants, retired in 1983 when rheumatoid arthritis affected his hands. His foundation, established in 1997, works with pediatric AIDS patients in Africa and cancer patients in eastern Europe.

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