Should Humans Tap Animals for Organs?
Xenotransplantation, like many high-tech medical techniques, raises a series of ethical issues. How should doctors, society and the patient judge the ethics of transplanting between species? Who should make the decision? And what principles should be invoked?Will animals be immorally exploited?
Yes, according to many animal-rights advocates, although there is certainly more opposition to taking organs from primates than from pigs. It would be hard to argue against killing a few pigs to remove their life-saving organs, while millions of pigs are being made into bacon and sausage each year.
Is xenotransplantation a wise use of resources?
Not according to Norman Fost, a prominent expert on medical ethics.
Does xenotransplantation breach some kind of innate species barrier? Isn't there something inherently wrong with adopting organs from another species?
On the one hand, humans have been using other animals for food, muscle power and companionship since time immemorial. And animals have provided insulin, skin grafts and heart valves for decades. On the other hand, we've always digested their meat, not had it implanted intact into our bodies. There are sure to be some who condemn the use of genetically engineered animals, and our near relatives, for transplant purposes.
What about religious strictures?
Xenotransplantation from pigs might breach Jewish and Islamic dietary laws which prohibit the consumption of pork.
Will it introduce deadly virus from animals to humans?
Perhaps, although most virologists say there's no way to measure the risk. Still, one prominent virologist, who's worked with AIDS in primates for many years, says xenotransplants could start an epidemic. See Fear of Viruses.