Baby Fae, A Baboon Heart, And Bioethics

By Karen Harris
Baby Fae, the world's first infant to receive a baboon heart transplant. Doctors at Loma Linda said they were elated with the child's progress. Baby Fae died 21 days after the controversial transplant. Source: (gettyimages.com)

On October 14, 1984, a tiny, premature, and the very sick baby was born in California. Although her birth certificate listed her name as Stephanie Fae Beauclair, she became known to the world as Baby Fae.

Baby Fae was born with a fatal heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Babies born with this condition always pass away within a week or two, so Baby Fae's mother was advised to take her tiny baby home to die in comfort. One doctor, however---Leonard Lee Bailey of Loma Linda University Medical Center---offered the family hope. His controversial proposition caught the world's attention and thrust tiny Baby Fae into the middle of bioethical debate. Here is the story of Baby Fae, a baboon heart, and bioethics.