When Dr. William DeVries hooked up dentist Barney Clark to the first artificial heart on 2 December 1982, it galvanized the attention of doctors and cardiac patients worldwide and sent medical ethicists scrambling for their philosophy books. That early mechanical heart relied on a washing machine-sized air compressor to cause the pump to contract, and Clark lived for 112 days tethered to the compressor by air lines that passed through his skin and connected directly to the pump.
The complexity of the design made infection all but impossible to control, and sickness ravaged Clark in the weeks following the replacement; at one point he begged doctors to let him die. A second implantee, William Schroeder, lived 18 months, only slightly more comfortably than Clark.
Widespread criticism of the trials caused the Food and Drug Administration to order them stopped, though the technology subsequently became a staple of the heart assist devices that take over pumping for patients who need to allow their hearts to rest and heal.