Debating xenotransplantation: Xenotransplantation is unethical

The lines between a medical breakthrough and playing God are becoming increasingly blurred. Xenotransplantation is one of those lines.

Xenotransplantation is the process of transplanting tissues or cells from one species to another. According to a recent WSET news story, a company here in Virginia is leading the way by developing technology that is trying to make it possible to replace failing human organs with pig organs.

You probably wrinkled your nose at that last sentence because the thought of putting animal organs inside someone sounds like something out of a horror movie. And I would do the same. That immediate repulsion you feel is natural; getting you to change your mind would probably take some serious explaining.

I don’t want to change your mind. This unnatural new medical tactic doesn’t sit well with most people. It’s one of the few things that animal rights activists and people who love barbecue can agree on — that is not what pigs are for.

Even if this method could eventually be developed to work long-term, is it right?

I would say no, if you hadn’t already guessed, for a number of reasons. Countless movies such as Jurassic Park and Frankenstein have been made that demonstrate the consequences of forcing something that is unnatural and “playing God.” I think that alone shows that deep down, humans know there are certain things we just should not do.

However, the difference between this and those movies are the intentions behind the project. It’s not some sadistic scientist; these are real doctors trying to find a solution to the massive waitlist for organ transplants. The Health Resources and Services Administration notes that there are over 100,000 people on the donor waitlist, and that every day 17 people die without a transplant.

Animals are not the solution. 1 Corinthians 15:38-39 says, “But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.”

This explains why no one who has undergone this procedure has lived more than two months afterwards, according to AP News. Even then, the pigs used have been genetically modified to make them more compatible with humans or our bodies would reject the foreign organs within minutes. If you have to force it, it is hardly a solution.

The harmful consequences of this procedure would not just be physical. Organ transplants are invasive as is — now add that your new heart came from a farm animal. The psychological effects of xenotransplantation are something no one is talking about.

People who have had this done could experience abuse from others who find the process repulsive, or even abusive to animals. I can’t even imagine the bullying a child would undergo if his or her classmates were to find out they were “part pig.”

Even if this became a successful method, replacing a piece of my body with an animal’s would stick with me. I would feel as if my humanity had been tainted, because my body would not be entirely ‘human’ anymore.

The question of diseases in animals being passed on to humans and the problems that could bring has also been raised.

Transplanting genetically edited animal parts inside a human patient is not a solution fit for approval. A better solution is to encourage more people to become organ donors, which still comes with risk, but at least we have a clear understanding of what those risks are.

The intentions of xenotransplantation are pure, but the method isn’t safe or ethical.

Barber is an opinion writer for the Liberty Champion

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