First Person to Receive Transplanted Pig Heart Dies at University of Maryland Medical Center


BALTIMORE — The first person to receive a transplanted pig heart died Tuesday, two months after the groundbreaking surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Officials at the Baltimore hospital said David Bennet began deteriorating a few days ago and was given palliative care. He was able to communicate with his family, the officials said.

The xenotransplant was offered to Bennet, a 57-year-old parent with terminal heart disease. He’d come to the hospital in October 2021 seriously ill and was placed on a life-saving heart-lung machine but deemed ineligible for a traditional heart transplant.

“We are devastated by the loss of Mr. Bennett,” said Dr. Bartley P. Griffith, the transplant surgeon and clinical director of the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Cardiac Xenotransplantation Program.

“He proved to be a brave and noble patient who fought all the way to the end. We extend our sincerest condolences to his family,” Griffith said in a statement. “Mr. Bennett became known by millions of people around the world for his courage and steadfast will to live.”

Bennet was offered the transplant of the genetically modified pig heart, an experimental procedure given emergency authorization Dec. 31 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The heart performed well for several weeks with no sign of rejection, the hospital said. He spent time with his family and participated in physical therapy. Officials said he often spoke of wanting to go home to his dog Lucky.

Doctors said they will use what they learned from the case.

“We are grateful to Mr. Bennett for his unique and historic role in helping to contribute to a vast array of knowledge to the field of xenotransplantation,” said Muhammad M. Mohiuddin, professor of surgery and scientific director in the Maryland xenotransplantation program.