KEY POINTS

  • David Bennett Sr. was convicted in 1988 for stabbing a man, leaving him paralyzed
  • He was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being found guilty of battery
  • The victim had sustained seven stab wounds and was wheelchair-bound for 19 years

The 57-year-old man who made history by receiving the first heart implant from a genetically modified pig and opened up the possibility to save others with the procedure was convicted of brutally stabbing a man 34 years ago.

David Bennett Sr., heralded for being the first recipient of the pioneering organ transplant was convicted in 1988 for stabbing one Edward Shumaker multiple times and leaving him paralyzed.

Shumaker had sustained seven stab wounds and was left wheelchair-bound for 19 years. His injuries led to a stroke and ultimately to his death in 2019, The Washington Post reported.

The devastated sister of Shumaker, Leslie Shumaker Downey was reminded of her brother’s trauma after seeing the face of his attacker, who was in his early 20s at the time, plastered over the pioneering transplant success story last week. Downey says the heart should have been given to someone more deserving than Bennett Sr.

"Ed suffered" while Bennett "went on and lived a good life" after being released from prison, Downey said. "Now he gets a second chance with a new heart — but I wish, in my opinion, it had gone to a deserving recipient," she said to the outlet.

In 1988, a 23-year-old Bennett attacked Shumaker at a lounge in Hagerstown while he was playing pool. The violent exchange allegedly occurred after Bennett’s then-wife, Norma Jean Bennett sat on Shumaker’s lap. An angry Bennett repeatedly stabbed Shumaker in the abdomen, chest and back, the NYPost reported.

Bennett fled the scene and took the cops on a high-speed chase. He was charged with intent to murder and carrying a concealed weapon. Later, he was found guilty of battery and carrying a concealed weapon but was acquitted of intent to murder. The Washington County Circuit Judge Daniel Moylan sentenced Bennett to 10 years in prison.

Downey said the attack on her younger brother tore the family apart. "It was just pure hell until the day Ed died," she said, the outlet reported.

According to the Washington Post, 17 people die each day in the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant. Families of some patients find the decision to give pioneering medical treatment to people convicted of violent crimes unthinkable and outrageous. However, doctors do not agree with the same view, citing that their job is to save lives irrespective of the patient’s history or character.

"The key principle in medicine is to treat anyone who is sick, regardless of who they are," said Arthur Caplan, a bioethics professor at New York University, as per NYPost. "We are not in the business of sorting sinners from saints. Crime is a legal matter."

This handout photo released by the University of Maryland School of Medicine on January 10, 2022 shows surgeon Dr. Bartley Griffith (L) with patient David Bennett, Sr., who received a heart implant from a genetically modified pig This handout photo released by the University of Maryland School of Medicine on January 10, 2022 shows surgeon Dr. Bartley Griffith (L) with patient David Bennett, Sr., who received a heart implant from a genetically modified pig Photo: UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND SCHOOL OF MEDICINE via AFP