In addition to the critically important potential public health issues in xenotransplantation, there are a number of ethical issues that should be addressed. These include: deciding upon the fairest way to allocate donor animal organs in a society where thousands of people die while waiting for a transplant; deciding whether or not persons who receive xenografts may be compelled to participate in long term follow-up programs because of the theoretical public health risk from endogenous viruses; developing a carefully constructed ethics concerning the creation and care of those animals that will be created to serve as donors; determining when and under what circumstances children and infants may be considered as recipients of xenografts; and studying the potential emotional impact on people of having had their lives prolonged with donor animal organs.
It would be naive to think that all these and other ethical issues will be resolved in advance of the technological readiness to attempt animal to human xenografts. However, it is crucial that those in the biotechnology industry who are working in this area help to initiate and sustain an ongoing public dialogue on these and related issues. BIO is committed to assisting in this process.
BIO supports a full and open debate about xenotransplantation to further understanding and broaden knowledge which will hopefully , offer innovative treatments for previously untreated conditions. Understandably, this subject raises concerns among many people. BIO encourages a full and open discussion of this issue and welcomes the opportunity to address any concerns people have.
BIO is committed to a responsible research program that is consistent with regulatory guidelines as well as with the recommendations of ethics advisory boards within both industry and government. Our colleagues at EuropaBIO have made the same pledge helping to ensure international consistency. BIO’s bioethics committee is engaged in the dialogue on the appropriate safeguards on this technology and educating the public on the importance of these techniques in treating disease. BIO also is working with the FDA to ensure that appropriate safeguards exist for the proper use of this promising new medical treatment.
A number of independent bodies across the world have considered the ethics of xenotransplantation and found it to be ethically acceptable. While we believe that xenotransplantation could be the answer for thousands of patients who will require transplants of tissues or solid organs, the industry and the scientific community must proceed with caution to ensure the safe development of this potentially life-saving technology.