Pig-to-human xenotransplantation: Overcoming ethical obstacles
Interest in animal-to-human transplantation has significantly increased owing to the limits placed on successful human-to-human organ transplantation by chronic scarcities of donated human organs, and transplant rejection. Extracting and transplanting organs from pigs is a promising solution to the current, increasing, global crisis of human organ scarcity, and would provide a vast supply of organs, which could be obtained quickly and selectively. Although potential harms of pig-to-human xenotransplantation exist, such as cross-species infection, transplant rejection, psychological harm, risks of wear and tear and threats to altruism, these harms may be mitigated through appropriate strategies. We address the objection that xenotransplantation is unnatural. We respond that the sense in which xenotransplantation is unnatural is unclear, and moreover, does not demonstrate that it is wrong. Overall, we claim that the benefits of pig-to-human xenotransplantation are likely to outweigh the harms, if appropriate steps are taken. Genetically modified pigs offer hope for a vast supply of organs for transplant in patients, along with a potentially avoidable risk of transplant rejection and disease transmission.
N Cengiz, Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
C S Wareham, Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
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Date published: 2019-12-17
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