The New York Times
By Roni Caryn Rabin Jan. 13, 2022
David Bennett Sr. was involved in a serious assault nearly 35 years ago, court records show. Such histories should not disqualify patients, his doctors said.
An ailing Maryland man who received a pig’s heart last week in a pioneering transplant procedure has a criminal record stemming from an assault 34 years ago in which he repeatedly stabbed a young man, leaving him paralyzed.
The victim, Edward Shumaker, spent two decades in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down, and suffered numerous medical complications including a stroke that left him cognitively impaired, before he died in 2007 at age 40, according to his sister, Leslie Shumaker Downey, of Frederick, Md.
The Washington Post first reported the transplant patient’s criminal record and the assault that led to it on Thursday. The revelations have prompted debate about how patients are selected for cutting-edge medical care.
The patient, David Bennett Sr., 57, is being closely monitored at the University of Maryland Medical Center for signs that his body is rejecting a heart received from a genetically modified pig. He was still doing well on Thursday, hospital officials said.
The assault occurred on April 30, 1988, when Mr. Shumaker, 22, was having a drink at a bar and talking with Mr. Bennett’s wife. In an apparent fit of jealousy, Mr. Bennett stabbed Mr. Shumaker in the back repeatedly.
The assault and its aftermath devastated the family, Ms. Downey said. “It crushed my parents,” she said. “It was just hell.”
He was charged with assault, battery and maiming with intent to murder, according to court records obtained by The New York Times, but was convicted on lesser charges of battery and carrying a concealed weapon and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was also ordered to pay Mr. Shumaker $29,824 in restitution, but Ms. Downey said he did not comply.
In an attempt to recover his substantial medical costs, Mr. Shumaker and his family sued Mr. Bennett and were awarded $3.4 million in damages, court records show. Ms. Downey said the family never received any money.
“The transplant gave him life,” Ms. Downey said of Mr. Bennett. “But my brother never got a second chance at life. Ed struggled every day for 19 years. No one deserves what he went through.”