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Man who had pig heart transplant was guilty of 1988 stabbing

Image source, University of Maryland School of Medicine

The man who received the world’s first pig heart transplant once stabbed a man seven times leaving him paralysed, his victim’s family have revealed.

David Bennett, 57, was convicted of the 1988 stabbing of Edward Shumaker, his sister told Radio 4’s Today show.

Leslie Shumaker Downey said that her brother died in 2007 after almost two decades of medical complications linked to the attack.


She said Mr Bennett was an unworthy recipient of the pioneering surgery.

But the team who carried out the operation said that someone’s criminal record could never be grounds for refusing them treatment.

The attack took place in April 1988 when Mr Bennett’s wife sat on the lap of Mr Shumaker, who was 22, Ms Downey said.

In an apparent jealous rage, Mr Bennett stabbed Mr Shumaker in the back repeatedly.

Mr Bennett was found guilty of battery and carrying a concealed weapon and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Ms Downey said nobody had contacted her about Mr Bennett receiving the pig heart, and only heard the news when her daughter messaged her.

“My second daughter sent me an instant message and said: ‘Mum, this is the man who stabbed uncle Ed.’ I then read the story and got angry because he had received the heart,” she said.

surgeons performing the surgery

Image source, University of Maryland School of Medicine

Mr Bennett is recovering after the experimental seven-hour procedure in Baltimore.

The transplant was considered the last hope of saving Mr Bennett’s life, though it is not yet clear what his long-term chances of survival are.

But Ms Downey said she did not believe he deserved the heart.

“They’re putting Bennett in the storylines, portraying him as a hero and a pioneer but he’s nothing of that sort,” she said.

“I think the doctors who did the surgery should be getting all the praise for what they have done, not Mr Bennett.”

Mr Shumaker was confined to a wheelchair as a result of the attack, before he had a stroke in 2005 and died two years later.

“My brother suffered for 19 years and the outcome of it [was] my whole family suffered,” Ms Downey said.

But Mr Bennett’s doctors said that past crimes do not disqualify patients from getting such procedures.

“It is the solemn obligation of any hospital or health care organization to provide lifesaving care to every patient who comes through their doors based on their medical needs,” officials at the University of Maryland Medical Centre told The New York Times.

“Any other standard of care would set a dangerous precedent and would violate the ethical and moral values that underpin the obligation physicians and caregivers have to all patients in their care.”

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