A Pig Heart Transplant For A Person: An Ethical Dilemma


An ethical dilemma is a scenario in which two aspects of a situation have a moral collision, and none is better than the other. An ethical dilemma is usually characterized by colliding views that have principled and moral backing, and thus, a choice is solely based on an individual’s perspective. For instance, in the case of David Bennett’s xenotransplantation, various public groups have varying opinions about the matter. Some people believe he was not a worthy candidate for the procedure due to his history, while others have the opposite opinion (Wilkinson, 2022). This paper will focus on understanding the issues’ outcomes and ethical standards.

Definition and Summary

The ethical problem, in this case, arises from the fact that a previously convicted individual was selected for the first-ever xenotransplantation. The predicament concerns David Bennett’s legibility for the ground-breaking surgery. Many, if not all, believe that an opportunity like that should have been reserved for a more deserving person. His illegibility is attributed to the fact that in 1988 he was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison (Wilkinson, 2022). This was because he stabbed Edward Shumaker 7 times after he found him and his now ex-wife chatting and drinking together in a bar (Anderson, 2022). The Shumaker family believes the opportunity should have been granted to a more deserving person. Therefore, the significant issue is that people view Bennett as a social delinquent who should not have been given a second chance at life.

LPN’S Professional Standards

The article has addressed several standards that align with the licensed practical nurse professional standards. Some of these standards include; responsibility and accountability, ethical practice, and client-focused care provision (“Licensed Practical Nurses,” 2022). The medical personnel exhibited responsibility in their professional commitment to providing medical care to all who needed it. The ethical practice was evident, too; the medical personnel did not disregard Bennett for the opportunity to get well, irrespective of the fact that he had been incarcerated in the past (Anderson, 2022). In addition, the standard of client-focused was illustrated; the medical personnel overlooked the fact that their patient had been imprisoned beforehand and focused on the fact that he was their patient and nothing more. Therefore, the whole xenotransplantation process upheld the professional standards of a licensed practical nurse.

Consequences of Ethical Dilemma

Legal Outcomes

The David Bennett ethical dilemma resulted in a number of legal repercussions on the different groups of people that were involved in the xenotransplantation. Some of the legal consequences resulting from the ethical predicament included; that healthcare providers are guided by responsibility and accountability, and as such, they are obligated to take care of their to ensure full recovery (Anderson, 2022). Competency is one of the primary standards that guide the practice of healthcare providers; nevertheless, it was somewhat neglected in the case of David Bennett. The medical personnel involved in the surgery display incompetency, this was because despite knowing the heart previous signs of viral infections they proceeded with the procedure. Therefore, the issues culminated in legal outcomes due to the negligence of the involved parties.

The dilemma has resulted in more questions than answers from the general public. Some of the questions being asked are those regarding the impact on an individual’s health and many speculations on the safety of transplanted organs. Many fear these organs may cause infections or even transmit diseases to recipients. As such, the public needs to be assured that these organs are safe for the patients or face legal intervention. The uproar of animal rights activists (PETA) and human rights activists on the ethics of using non-humans as sources of organs. Therefore, these have resulted in legal involvement to ensure public safety.

Moral and Ethical Outcomes

The issue sparked a series of moral and ethical queries among the general public. The outcomes were attributed to varying reasons for the moral and ethical aspects of xenotransplantation. The public questioned the morality of the healthcare personnel and all those involved in the transplant surgery (Duquesne University, 2020). This is because the hospital had selected David Bennett for the surgery despite his history of refusing to adhere to doctors’ prescriptions. However, the opinions of the healthcare professionals on whom to treat are limited by their professional duties as outlined in the LPN’s standards. All people have a right to medical care irrespective of their history; the Maryland Hospital had no power to deny Bennett the necessary medical care (Wilkinson, 2022). More so, nurses are guided by practice ethics to ensure equitable health care to all patients; thus, David Bennett was entitled to better care than any other patient. The issue ensued to various ethical and moral questions on how David Bennett should have been handled.

Possible Outcomes

Other outcomes may have likely emanated from the issue. For instance, instead of viewing the issue as an absurdity, the public could also see it as a breakthrough in the field of medicine. This would be a big win in solving the shortage of transplant organs and thus be crucial in saving countless lives. More so, the surgery signified a significant break in developing alternative sources of donor organs (“Licensed Practical Nurses,” n.d.). The xenotransplantation trial should be a valuable learning experience for medical providers. Therefore, even though the successful surgery was short-lived, it provided the medical practitioners with a great learning experience in understanding how to increase the chances of success and possible complications. The ethical dilemma resulted in a series of varying outcomes depending on the varying perspectives of the public members.

Another possible outcome from the issue would be the questioning of the moral responsibility of the medical personnel’s by human rights advocates. First and foremost it was very noble of Maryland Hospital to give David Bennett another chance at life. Nevertheless it is unacceptable to use him as a test subject for the new technology; it would seem as if they exploited his inability to secure an organ to get him to accept their trial procedure (Wilkinson, 2022). Bennett had been denied the opportunity to receive anew heart and his condition was getting worse and thus he was eager to jump at the opportunity to save his life (Duquesne University, 2020). The issue may have culminated to more outcomes based on moral and ethical standing of different members of the public.

Prevention Measures

If I were among the nurses involved in the dilemma and wanted to prevent the issue from happening again, I would begin an awareness campaign. The campaign would focus on educating the public on the significance of the breakthrough. I would work towards changing their perspective on the operation, and this is because most of them view it with a fixed mentality that David Bennett (Duquesne University, 2020). I would work towards making them understand that all people have a right to better healthcare and that no law prevents previously convicted persons from receiving medical care. I would begin the campaign at the hospital level, where patients would then inform other members of the public.

Furthermore, I would focus on ensuring that the public fully understands the impact of the procedure in the field of medicine. If they understood how essential the operation was, they would likely be able to overlook the history of David Bennett (Anderson, 2022). Changing the public’s perspective and making them understand the issue’s importance would be significant in preventing the occurrence of such an issue.

Concepts Learned

The ethical dilemma has taught me a few things, and at the same time, I learned more about myself. I learned from the ethical dilemma that individual rights are more important as much as public opinion is of great importance. Despite David Bennett’s conviction in history, his right to medical care trumps all opinions, and thus he was accorded the care he deserved (Duquesne University, 2020). Furthermore, the health care sector is morally obligated to develop better health care services for the public, which is more important than and thus disregarded claims from activist groups like the people for the ethical treatment of animals PETA) (Anderson, 2022). While writing this paper, I learned that my views on the issue were not negative at all. This is because, although Bennett had earlier been convicted and imprisoned, he had served his sentence too. Therefore he is still a member of society, and access to better care is his right.


This article has expounded on the outcome of the ethical issue, that is, the selection of David Bennett for xenotransplantation. The surgery was the first of its kind, and the patient was deemed socially ineligible for the procedure by the public. His ineligibility was because he had been imprisoned for battery and carrying a concealed weapon. The public viewed it as a waste, given that he had a history of ignoring doctors’ instructions. From society’s perspective, he was an unfit candidate and should not have been considered.


Anderson, N. (2022). Pig heart transplant recipient stabbed a man seven times in 1988, leaving him wheelchair-bound. Mail Online. Web.

Duquesne University. (2020). Ethical Issues in Nursing: Explanations & Solutions. Duquesne University School of Nursing. Web.

Licensed Practical Nurses. (n.d.). BCCNM. Web.

Wilkinson, D. (2022). Pig heart transplant: was David Bennett the right person to receive ground-breaking surgery? The Conversation. Web.