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Xenotransplantation - An Ethical Alternative to Donor Organ Transplantation?

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Introduction

Xenotransplantation - An Ethical Alternative to Donor Organ Transplantation? Introduction Xenotransplantation is a term used to refer to the transplantation of organs between different species. Transplantation within human species (allotransplantation) has established an acceptable clinical role, especially involving organs such as the kidney, heart, bone marrow and liver. In fact, its success has caused demand to far outstrip supply. This is primarily due to shortage of available human donor organs. Many initiatives have been introduced such as publicity campaigns, distribution of donor cards, appointment of transplant co-ordinators, implementation of protocols in hospitals, and action programs for public and professionals. However, these have not been sufficient to increase the donor supply significantly. In 1993 in the United States alone, there were about 32,000 patients waiting for different organs . Most of these would either die or be severely incapacitated in the absence of a transplant. As the programs become more successful, more recipients are identified, but the prospective increase in donors has lagged behind. The median waiting period for a number of various types of donor organs has also increased significantly over the last few years and continues to be a problem. ...read more.

Middle

Alternately, - dropping the issue of inherent animal rights - if animals are subjects for our ethical concern ,how does this valuation of their worth as living creatures measure up against the ways in which we can exploit them purely for our own ends? Certainly the argument used for employing xenotransplantation proposes that the loss of human life is ethically more significant than loss of animal life. To the supporters of xenotransplantation this seems a convincing answer. The duty to preserve human life justifies a xenograft. 3. "Speciesism" The opponents feel that there is no justification for ascribing to humans an absolute right to life to the exclusion of the rights to life of other creatures. Xenotransplantation is not morally acceptable because it elevates humans to an unjustifiably high status in the natural order, regardless of the human good which might come of it - such as preserving human life. To do so is termed 'speciesism'. 4. Endangerment of Survival of Higher Primates If xenotransplantation became successful it would open up opportunities for extended life to many patients. However, large numbers of animal sacrifices would have to be made. ...read more.

Conclusion

But the prospects soon worsened again as the risks of animal to human transplants became more apparent. All mammal species studied have a chromosomal region located identically. The goal here was to develop strains of pigs whose organs would not induce a strong rejection in humans because the human immune system would `see' human tissue groups on the pig organ. Meanwhile, a project into xenotransplantation is currently being undertaken as part of a European biomedical program and will focus on the ethical and social problems in early clinical trials of xenotransplantation (the unknown risk of virus infection from the xenograft and how to recruit participants in an ethical way), animal rights and animal welfare issues and the problem of social acceptance. Following lengthy investigation of this subject, my views regarding the issue are, as yet, unclear. The arguments surrounding this issue are very much utilitarian and, as a result, one would need to take time to study and consider both viewpoints of the situation before reaching a valid conclusion. However, it appears reasonable that current research in xenotransplantation should continue at the experimental level preferably using a discordant model such as the pig. ...read more.

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