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Trans-Species Organ Farming: The Good, the Bad, and the Creepy

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Connie Marshner - published on 05/14/15

Growing human organs inside animals may save lives, but at what cost?

There is a shortage of organs available for transplantation. Estimates are that 123,000 people in the U.S. are in need of a transplant, and about 21 people die each day waiting for one.

The art and science of transplantation is so advanced as to be routine. Science sees the shortage of organs as a problem to be solved. However, the obtaining of organs from human donors is fraught with difficulties—moral, practical, and legal.

There is a shortage of organs available for transplantation.Estimates are that 123,000 people in the U.S. are in need of a transplant, and about 21 people die each day waiting for one.

The art and science of transplantation is so advanced as to be routine. Science sees the shortage of organs as a problem to be solved. However, the obtaining of organs from human donors is fraught with difficulties—moral, practical, and legal.

An emerging possible solution to the problem of organ shortage is organ farming. That is: growing human organs inside other animals until those organs are large enough to be transplanted into humans.

One experiment with organ farming was recently reported in the American Journal of Transplantation. Another science journal says laconically that this experiment is “sure to be controversial.”

They got that right.

In this case, the organs being experimented with were kidneys from aborted human fetuses.

In other words, this experiment in growing kidneys for transplant into human beings depended on other human beings being killed. Otherwise, the experiment was promising.

The same experiment has been done with transplanted human fetal hearts. Research leader Dr. Eugene Gu, CEO of biotech company Ganogen, Inc., thinks this technology would work with every kind of organ. He hopes eventually to transplant kidneys into larger animals, such as pigs, where the organs could grow big enough to be transplanted back into people.

This is all still experimental—but trans-species organ farming seems likely to be in our future.

The professional “biomedical ethicists” want to make sure that proper “consent” was given by the pregnant woman and that the abortionist had no connection to Dr. Gu and his team.

Er, how about the consent of the actual organ donor, the unborn baby? Who asked his consent?

Most “professional bioethicists” overlook that person.

And the research continues.

It goes without saying that if a human individual has to be killed, the whole experiment is unacceptable— no matter how many more “available” kidneys might result from it.

It is never right to kill one person in the hope of saving or benefitting another person. It is never right to do evil in the hope that some good can come of it.

On the other hand, the technique of intermediate organ transplant into an animal is morally neutral. If a bioengineered human kidney can be made from the patient’s own cells, as Harold Ott at Massachusetts General is currently working to do, I see no objection to growing it inside a mouse or a pig until it can be transplanted into a human at the appropriate age.

Persons concerned about the ethical rights of animals might object if the process involved lethal injury (which it might, if an animal’s own organs are removed to accommodate the transplant). But if butchering an animal to benefit (i.e., feed) a human being is morally acceptable, logically so should this be. (Which is not to say that the animal rights movement is always logical, of course.)

But even if organ-farming technology advances on a moral basis, there is still the “yuck” factor.

Does it seem, well, creepy to have a body part inside you that was once inside a pig?

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