Historical pig heart recipient was convicted in 1988 of stabbing

That first time receiving a heart transplant pig once stabbed a bar protector seven times in a brutal attack that now causes the victim’s astonished family to question why the life-saving body did not go to a more “deserved,” a report said Thursday.

David Bennett, a 57-year-old suffering from incurable heart disease, was convicted of stabbing in 1988 by Edward Shumaker. according to The Washington Post.

Shumaker’s heartbroken sister, Leslie Shumaker Downey, now says the second chance at one heart should have gone to another.

“Ed suffered,” Downey told the newspaper. “The devastation and trauma, for years, that my family had to deal with.”

The attack forced her brother to use a wheelchair, leading to a stroke and eventually his death, while Bennett has a new life.

“[Bennett] went on and lived a good life. Now he gets another chance with a new heart – but I wish, in my opinion, it had gone to a deserved recipient, “she said.

David Bennett Sr., his son, David Bennett Jr., left and Muhammad Mohiuddin, scientific director of the University of Maryland School of Medicine's animal-to-human transplant program.
David Bennett was convicted of stabbing in 1988 by Edward Shumaker, an attack that resulted in the victim having to use a wheelchair before suffering a stroke and death.
University of Maryland School of

Bennett, then 23, attacked Shumaker while playing pool in the Double T Lounge in Hagerstown on April 30, 1988, after his then-wife, Norma Jean Bennett, sat on Shumaker’s lap, according to The Daily Mail, a Hagerstown newspaper.

Bennett struck Shumaker from behind and stabbed him repeatedly in the abdomen, chest and back, according to court records quoted by The Washington Post.

Members of the surgical team show the pig heart for transplant to patient David Bennett.
Bennett became the first person to ever receive a genetically modified pig heart transplant.

He then fled from police in a high-speed chase and was charged, among other things, with intent to murder and openly carrying a concealed weapon.

A jury found him guilty of violence and carrying a concealed weapon, but acquitted him of intent to murder. Washington County Circuit Judge Daniel Moylan called the stabbing a case of “extreme violence” and sentenced him to 10 years behind bars.

The attack eventually tore her family apart, Downey said. “It was just pure hell until the day Ed died,” she said.

Surgeons performing a heart transplant from a genetically modified pig on patient David Bennett, Sr.
Some critics are outraged that a person convicted of a violent crime will be assigned to a body that so many others so desperately need.

On Friday, Bennett – who suffered from heart failure and an irregular heartbeat – became the first person to ever receive a genetically modified heart transplant of pigs in a historic 9-hour operation.

The first of its kind saved his life and gave hope to others on waiting lists for organ transplants, according to doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

More than 106,000 Americans are on a national waiting list for an organ transplant with 17 people dying every day while waiting – raising questions about the ethics surrounding who deserves the coveted organs, the newspaper reported.

Bennett with members of his family out to eat.
Bennett, pictured with his family, suffered from terminal heart disease.

For some families, it is an outrage that a person convicted of a violent crime will be assigned a body that others so desperately need. But doctors often disagree, and there are no laws prohibiting anyone with a criminal history from receiving a transplant.

“The key principle in medicine is to treat everyone who is ill, no matter who they are,” said Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at New York University. “We are not in the process of sorting sinners from saints. Crime is a legal matter.”

Instead, other factors are taken into account such as a person’s health background, history of substance abuse or risk of developing an infection during imprisonment.

David Bennett with family and after his surgery
Decades before his historic heart surgery, Bennett was convicted of repeatedly stabbing a man in a bar before fleeing police.

Officials from the University of Maryland Medical Center declined to comment to the newspaper on whether they knew about Bennett’s criminal past.

Officials said Baltimore Hospital provides “life-saving care to every patient who comes through their doors based on their medical needs, not their background or living conditions.”

“This patient came to us in great distress,” the officials added.

Bennett’s son, David Bennett Jr., declined to discuss his father’s criminal record with the newspaper.

“He has a strong will and desire to live,” he said.


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