Hospital defends pig heart transplant in patient with criminal past

A Maryland hospital is defending its decision to transfer a pig’s heart to a dying man after reports that the patient had a criminal past, saying his eligibility is “based solely on his medical records.”

David Bennett, 57, is still recovering from last week’s highly experimental transplant, the first medical step and step in the quest to alleviate the shortage of human organs one day using animals. While the new heart works, it’s too soon to know how Bennett will perform.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that 34 years ago, Bennett had filed a stabbing charge that left a young man paralyzed. The state’s Department of Corrections told the newspaper that Bennett was released from prison in 1994 after serving six years of a 10-year prison sentence.

In a statement Thursday, the University of Maryland Medical Center said physicians are obligated to provide the best care to every patient regardless of their background.

Bennett’s son, David Bennett Jr., issued a separate statement refusing to discuss his father’s past and saying he hoped to focus on “my father’s desire to contribute to science and possibly save patients’ lives in the future.”

The older Bennett was deemed ineligible for a human heart transplant due to his condition – he had heart failure and an arrhythmia.

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