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The Warsaw Voice » Society » March 18, 2009
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Ex-Minister and Cardiac Surgeon Dies
March 18, 2009   
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Zbigniew Religa, Poland's most outstanding cardiac surgeon who was health minister from 2005 to 2007, died March 8 aged 71. He had been fighting lung cancer for several years and had undergone surgery several times as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment.

In 1986, Religa became the first surgeon in Poland to perform a heart transplant operation. The procedure was performed at the Cardiac Surgery Clinic in Zabrze, of which he was head at that time. Later, for many years Religa and his team set the pace in the development of heart surgery in Poland. He worked on projects aimed at developing implantable heart assist devices and an artificial heart. Religa was also a senator for many years. In 2005, he ran for president as an independent candidate, but eventually withdrew from the race. Later, he became health minister in the coalition government of the Law and Justice (PiS), Samoobrona and League of Polish Families (LPR) parties.

In the elections of 2007, he ran for parliament on a PiS ticket. He won a seat with 62,228 votes, one of the best results in the country.

Although his health was deteriorating, he took an active part in parliamentary debates on health service reform, sharply criticizing the present government over its health policies.

President Lech Kaczyński said Religa's death "is a great loss to politics and science." He added that Religa "saved hundreds, if not thousands, of human lives." Kaczyński also said Religa had been an excellent minister. In November, Religa received the highest Polish state award, the Order of the White Eagle.
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