Ethical and Societal Issues Occasioned by Xenotransplantation

Animals (Basel). 2020 Sep 19;10(9):1695. doi: 10.3390/ani10091695.


There are three sorts of issues associated with genetic engineering and, by implication, with xenotransplantation. These are dangers associated with the technology, animal welfare issues, and the claim that genetic engineering represents a technology that humans should not embark upon. Using the hearts of pigs for humans in need of transplants has been a major issue in xenotransplantation. There are dangers associated with such use, such as immunological rejection of the organ, endogenous viruses infecting the recipients, and issues of privacy. In addition, the issue of fair distribution of organs arises. Animal welfare issues also arise, most notably the living conditions of the donor animals, issues notably present in confinement agriculture. A major issue emerges from animals' being kept under conditions that fail to meet the needs dictated by the animals' biological and psychological natures. Xenotransplantation animals will be kept under deprived laboratory conditions that similarly fail to meet the animals' natures. This is a significant concern for society in general. There are also issues of "bad ethics" arising from scientists' disavowal of ethical concerns in science. This in turn, coupled with societal ignorance of science, creates a climate for proliferation of religious and other non-rational concerns, such as the claim that xenotransplantation violates God's will. These spurious concerns can only be ameliorated when public understanding of science improves, and scientific understanding of ethics increases.

Keywords: ethical issues in genetic engineering; genetic engineering; societal issues with xenotransplantation; value-free science; xenotransplantation.