Baby Fae

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"Baby Fae"
Born Stephanie Fae Beauclair
(1984-10-14)14 October 1984
Died 15 November 1984(1984-11-15) (aged 0)
Nationality American
Known for first infant subject of a xenotransplant procedure
"Baby Fae", shortly after her transplant. The dark stripe on her torso is the surgical incision.

Stephanie Fae Beauclair[1] (October 14, 1984 – November 15, 1984), better known as Baby Fae, was an American infant born in 1984 with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. She became the first infant subject of a xenotransplant procedure, receiving the heart of a baboon. The procedure, performed by Leonard L. Bailey at Loma Linda University Medical Center, was successful, but Fae died 21 days later of heart failure due to rejection of the transplant.The rejection is thought to have been caused largely by a humoral response against the graft, due to Fae's type O blood creating antibodies against the type AB xenograft.[2] The blood type incompatibility was seen as unavoidable: fewer than 1% of baboons are type O, and Loma Linda only had seven young female baboons – all of which were type AB – available as potential donors. It was hoped that the transplant could be replaced by an allograft at a later date, before Fae's body began generating isohaemagglutinins, but a suitable donor could not be found in time. The procedure was subject to a wide ethical and legal debate, but the attention that it generated is thought to have paved the way for Bailey to perform the first successful infant allograft heart transplant a year later.The Baby Fae case, and Bailey's role in it, has been a popular case study in the realm of medical ethics. Bailey did not look for a human heart for Fae. There were questions as to whether parents should be allowed to volunteer children for experimental medical procedures, and whether the parents themselves were properly informed by Bailey. However, because Fae's mother had no medical insurance, she could not afford to pay for the heart transplant procedure. The xenograft, on the other hand, was offered for free. When asked why he had picked a baboon over a primate more closely related to humans in evolution, he replied "Er, I find that difficult to answer. You see, I don't believe in evolution."[3] Charles Krauthammer, writing in Time, said the Baby Fae case was totally within the realm of experimentation and was "an adventure in medical ethics."[4] The case further brought up debates regarding the risk/benefit ratio that should be considered ethical when dealing with experimental procedures on human subjects.[5] Ultimately, the American Medical Association and top medical journals criticized Bailey, concluding that xenografts should be undertaken only as part of a systematic research program with controls in randomized clinical trials.[3]

The validity of the consent obtained in the case of Baby Fae has also been largely criticized. Bailey originally alleged that he obtained consent following a long discussion with the mother and father. It was later revealed, however, that the father was not present at the time of consent. The information in the consent form was also changed after the mother originally saw it. The original phrasing stated that the procedure could potentially extend Baby Fae's life 'long term'.[6]

Although Fae's full name was not made public at the time of the procedure, her mother chose to reveal herself in 1997.[7]

The Paul Simon song "The Boy in the Bubble" from the 1986 Graceland album, most likely references her in the lyrics. "Medicine is magical and magical is art / Thinking of the Boy in the Bubble / And the baby with the baboon heart".


  1. ^ The Legacy of Baby Fae, at Loma Linda University; published no later than October 2009; retrieved August 16, 2014
  2. ^ Bailey, Leonard; Nehlsen-Cannarella SL; Concepcion W; Jolley WB. (December 1985). "Baboon-to-human cardiac xenotransplantation in a neonate.". The Journal of the American Medical Association. 3321-9. 254 (23): 3321–9. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360230053022. PMID 2933538. 
  3. ^ a b Pence, Gregory E. (2008). Classic Cases in Medical Ethics (PDF) (5th ed.). Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  4. ^ Charles Krauthammer, Essay: The Using of Baby Fae, Time, December 3, 1984, accessed May 28, 2013.
  5. ^ "Case: Willowbrook Experiments". Retrieved 2016-01-19. 
  6. ^ Times, Sandra Blakeslee, Special To The New York (1985-12-20). "BABOON HEART IMPLANT IN BABY FAE IN 1984 ASSAILED AS 'WISHFUL THINKING'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-01-19. 
  7. ^ "Four Corners - 8/25/1997: Animal Transplants. Australian Broadcasting Corp". Retrieved 2008-11-26. 


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