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Dick Cheney Gets New Heart

Former Vice President Recovering After Undergoing Surgery

- Common Dreams staff

Former US vice president Dick Cheney was given a new heart today in a transplant operation at a northern Virginia hospital.

Dick Cheney received a new heart today and is recovering in the ICU of a hospital in northern Virginia. "Although the former vice president and his family do not know the identity of the donor, they will be forever grateful for this lifesaving gift," aide Kara Ahern said in a written statement that the Associated Press authenticated with several of the Republican politician's close associates.

The AP reports:

More than 3,100 Americans currently are on the national waiting list for a heart transplant. Just over 2,300 heart transplants were performed last year, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. And 330 people died while waiting.

According to UNOS, 332 people over age 65 received a heart transplant last year. The majority of transplants occur in 50- to 64-year-olds. [...]

Cheney served as former President George W. Bush's vice president for eight years, from 2001 until 2009. Cheney was a lightning rod for criticism during Bush's presidency, accused by opponents of often advocating a belligerent U.S. stance in world affairs during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, wished Cheney a "fast and full recovery" in a post on Twitter. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Romney's chief challenger, sent a written statement wishing Cheney and his family well and offering his thoughts and prayers.

Like 5 million other Americans, Cheney had congestive heart failure, meaning his heart had become too weakened to pump properly. That can happen for a variety of reasons, but Cheney's was due to cumulative damage from his multiple heart attacks.

Heart failure kills 57,000 Americans a year and contributes to many more deaths.

Shortly after Cheney's surgery was disclosed, one prominent cardiologist — Dr. Eric Topol of Scripps Health in La Jolla, Calif. — raised the issue of whether someone so old should have received a new heart.

"The ethicists will get into this case," he wrote on Twitter.

Others disagreed.

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