Is Xenotransplantation an ethical solution or disaster?
The audience for this paper is comprised of those readers looking to gain knowledge on the issue of xenotransplantation. This group of people is unaware of the dynamics of the ethical arguments surrounding this current issue. This audience does not have a specific age or belief, reflecting the varied positions of the argument. Due to this hunger for factual information, they do not wish to have someone else's views imposed on them. Instead, they wish to define and establish a view of their own.
Ethical debates frequently occur today because of advances in society, technology, science, and many other areas. These arguments are comprised of many people due to the diversity of their interpretations of ethics in these areas. Ethics can be defined as "a system of moral, scruples, principles or values that in itself defines what is right or good behavior" (Shankarkumar, 317). The issue involving xenotransplantation, the sharing of organs between different species, has become a controversial subject with disagreements focusing on the ethical perspectives of the surgery. In order to comprehend the numerous ethical arguments surrounding xenotransplantation, the following three parties must be viewed: physicians, both for and against the surgery, and society.
Xenotransplantation is defined as "transplanting cells, tissues or whole organs from one species into another" (Baker, 643). These transplantations involve organs such as the heart, kidneys, and many others. Today, pigs have quickly become the donor species due to their anatomical and economical advantages. Pigs grow and reproduce very rapidly, creating a large litter, increasing the number of subjects for donation. Also, their organs and blood vessels are similar in size to those of humans, making their use more practical than that of an anatomically larger species (Baker, 643).
The concept of xenotransplantation has been attempted many times throughout history. In 1682, doctors repaired the skull of an injured Russian nobleman using bone from the skull of a dog. The patient died soon after the surgery due to the unsanitary conditions of the procedure (Shankarkumar, 318). Next, in 1905, a French surgeon transplanted pieces of a rabbit's kidney into a sixteen year old boy. The reason for this surgery being the boy was suffering from the final stage of kidney failure. He died two
weeks after the surgery had taken place (Shankarkumar, 318).
The first attempts of xenotrantransplantation in the U.S. did not occur until the 1960's. During this time, scientists tried to transplant baboon and chimpanzee organs to humans. These transplants failed due to rejection by the human immune system (Baker, 643). The most well known xenotransplantation attempt, known as Baby Fae, occurred in 1985 at the Coma Linda University Medical Center in California. During this surgery, Dr. Leonard Bailey completed the first human neonatal cardiac xenotransplantation by placing the heart of a baboon into an infant. Fae, the infant, suffered from hypo-plastic left heart syndrome, or simply an incomplete heart. The heart functioned for twenty days until stopping, killing Baby Fae (Clark, 1085). This attempt raised difficult ethical and policy issues, which have not yet been answered.
Recently, the low numbers of human donor organs and short term mechanical "organ" replacements have given cause for research on animal sources. For example, scientists at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center have attempted to graft baboon bone marrow into an AIDS patient. Also, testing of pig fetal tissue transplants is now underway for the use of treating Parkinson's disease (Baker, 643).
In the last 25 years, each case of xenotransplantation performed has failed. Overcoming the human immune system rejection is the most difficult complication of xenotransplantation. "The success of xenotransplantation...
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