First Organ Transplant Donor Ronald Lee Herrick Dies

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3D kidney diagram. (istockphoto)

(CBS/AP) Fifty-six years ago, Ronald Lee Herrick made medical history when he donated a kidney to his dying brother. The selfless act is generally considered to be the world's first successful organ transplant.

Now, Herrick has passed away.

The 79-year-old died Monday at the Augusta Rehabilitation Center in Maine. His wife, Cynthia, said his health deteriorated after undergoing heart surgery in October.

Herrick donated a kidney to his twin brother, Richard, at what is now Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Because they were identical twins, there was no problem with rejection. The United Network for Organ Sharing says it was the first successful organ transplant.

The operation on Dec. 23, 1954, kept Herrick's brother alive for eight years. Lead surgeon Dr. Joseph Murray went on to win a Nobel Prize.