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Commentary

Ethical and Societal Issues Occasioned by Xenotransplantation

Department of Philosophy, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
Animals 2020, 10(9), 1695; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091695
Received: 28 August 2020 / Revised: 10 September 2020 / Accepted: 15 September 2020 / Published: 19 September 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Human-Animal Interactions, Animal Behaviour and Emotion)
The dream of transferring bodily organs from animals to humans goes back to antiquity, as articulated in the myth of Daedalus and Icarus. But the genuine possibility of xenotransplantation is largely a creature of the last half-century. That possibility raises a plethora of genuine ethical issues, as well as spurious ones occasioned by societal ignorance of science.
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. View Full-Text
Keywords: genetic engineering; ethical issues in genetic engineering; xenotransplantation; value-free science; societal issues with xenotransplantation genetic engineering; ethical issues in genetic engineering; xenotransplantation; value-free science; societal issues with xenotransplantation
MDPI and ACS Style

Rollin, B.E. Ethical and Societal Issues Occasioned by Xenotransplantation. Animals 2020, 10, 1695. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091695

AMA Style

Rollin BE. Ethical and Societal Issues Occasioned by Xenotransplantation. Animals. 2020; 10(9):1695. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091695

Chicago/Turabian Style

Rollin, Bernard E. 2020. "Ethical and Societal Issues Occasioned by Xenotransplantation" Animals 10, no. 9: 1695. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091695

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