Man receives a genetically modified pig heart to replace his own

Serena Erickson, Staff Writer

January 7, 2022 David Benett, age 57, received an organ transplant using a genetically modified pig heart to replace his own heart after it was damaged by terminal heart disease. This was the first successful non-human heart transplant.

The procedure was led by Dr. Bartley P. Griffith, a surgeon who has performed over 1,200 heart transplants.

“The pig heart had 10 genetic modifications, including the removal of four pig genes and the addition of six human genes,” said Corrie Pelc in the Medical News Today.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, over 106,000 Americans are currently in need of an organ transplant. However, 17 patients each day die before receiving one. Many people hope that animal organs could help fill the dire shortage.

Controversy over the surgery did arise as some people believe that Benett does not deserve the transplant as he was convicted in 1988 of stabbing a man, Edward Shumaker, seven times in the back after Benett’s wife sat on Shumaker’s lap. As a result, Shumaker spent almost two decades in a wheelchair paralyzed from the waist down. In 2005, he had a stroke and died two years later. 

“I think the doctors who did the surgery should be getting all the praise for what they have done, not Mr Bennett,” said Leslie Shumaker Downey, Edward Shumaker’s sister, as reported by the British Broadcasting Corporation.

As reported by the British Broadcasting Corporation, others, including the organ transplant team, have said that they do not believe that a person would be denied treatment due to a criminal past.

It was either die or do this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice,” said David Benett.