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The Ethics and Morals behind Xenotransplants

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The Ethics and Morals behind Xenotransplants Xenotransplantation is any procedure that involves the transplantation, implantation, or infusion into a human recipient of either (a) live cells, tissues, or organs from a nonhuman animal source, or (b) human body fluids, cells, tissues or organs that have had ex vivo contact with live nonhuman animal cells, tissues or organs. [S1] The possibilities of animal to human transplants have been in the mind of scientists for many years, but it does raise numerous issues of morality and technicality. While it can be argued it is natural for us to claim animal lives to eat in order to obtain a healthy diet, transplantations are a world away from this. Animals would have to be grown in laboratories killed and butchered for their organs in order to save human lives. This issue is very complex because it puts human life a league above animal life. Some people argue we are playing God by performing xenotransplants and that other methods of organ replacement should be researched, that would be both more ethical and effective. Others argue that an animal life can never begin to measure up to a human life and so research should continue despite dilemmas, moral and scientific. To add and weigh life is a privilage often taken by humans because of our level of intelligence. ...read more.


This, then, would end the problem of hyperacute rejection and move us back to the problem of chronic rejection, something which already exists with human transplants and which we can handle to some degree. That goal has very nearly been achieved. Two different companies have announced that they have produced litters of cloned miniature pigs lacking one copy of a gene that produces the GAL molecules. According to them, pigs with transplantable organs could exist within seven years. (S4) This is an interesting thought. Pigs now exist that have been unnaturally engineered to serve as donors for humans. The ethics behind this issue are very complex. However the scientific dangers are also very large as introducing a foreign body into a human could bring about transmission and develop of new diseases. One example of a disease that jumps from animals to humans is the well-known influenza virus. Most new strains of the flu originate in the Far East where large numbers of people live in close, unsanitary conditions with pigs and chickens. In 1998, authorities in Hong Kong had thousands of chickens killed to prevent the spread of a fatal flu virus designated H5N1, which started out killing poultry but then began killing people. Fortunately, it only infected those who came into direct contact with diseased animals; but if it had been transmittable through coughs and sneezes, it might have become a pandemic killing tens of millions around the world. ...read more.


We do not know the answers to these questions. We now have the technology to produce a 50:50 mix of any mammals we like. Geep have already been born (combined sheep and goat). Humonkeys would be relatively simple to make. How many human genes does an animal have to have to gain human rights? And what about animal rights? One may argue that these questions are far removed from humanising a pig with a minute amount of human genetic material but the underlying issues will never go away. [S6] Also if we are prepared to use advanced primate organs for xenotransplants why not severely disabled humans? In many respects of intelligence they are similar, what makes a brain damaged human more valuable than an ape? These questions are very hard to answer and are best sometimes not answered. Perhaps life should not be so easily given and taken? In conclusion then the truth is that at present xenotransplants are unsafe, unreliable and pose unresolved ethical questions. These questions need urgent debate because the speed of progress is likely to change views on safety and efficacy within five years. [S1] Xenotransplantation Action Plan FDA Approach to the Regulation of Xenotransplantation (U.S. food and drug administration website) [S2] http://www.linkny.com/~civitas/page238.html news website [S3] September 22nd 2000 Daily Mail [S4] "The genetic revolution" by Dr Patrick Dixon [S5] http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/links/doi/10.1034/j.1399-3089.2003.00056.x/abs/ information document [S6] Genetics and Society by Alison Plinick ...read more.

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