Ethical issues in the use of animals in xenotransplantation
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Ethical Issues in the Use of Animals in Xenotransplantation Rui-Peng LEI Center for Bioethics Central China University of Science & Technology Wuhan, China About Xeno-transplantation Research The state of art of research Two major problems in research

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Ethical Issues in the Use of Animals in Xenotransplantation

Rui-Peng LEI

Center for Bioethics

Central China University

of Science & Technology

Wuhan, China


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About Xeno-transplantation Research

  • The state of art of research

  • Two major problems in research

    • immune rejection– hyper acute rejection

    • cross-species infection

  • Preclinical and clinical research in China

    • establishing animal models

    • cell transplantation trials

    • three study sites in China (Tianjin, Wuhan, Chengdu)


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Ethical Issues in Xenotransplantation Research

  • Individual liberty vs. public good

  • The complexity of informed consent

  • Animal welfare issue

  • Personal and human identity

  • Distributive justice in health resource allocation


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Outline of Animal Welfare Issue

  • Whether as a matter of principle, it is considered to be morally acceptable to use animals as organ or tissue source for humans.

  • The ethical acceptability of the use of primates to supply transplant material.

  • The ethical issues raised by the use of genetically modified animals to provide organs for xenotransplantation


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Animal Welfare Issue-1

  • The animals are not only experimental subjects but also organ or tissue donors of human beings in xenotransplantation.

  • The tenable justification: the balance of animal suffering and human benefit.

  • The saving of human life may justify a certain amount of animal suffering.


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Animal Welfare Issue-1

  • In current xenotransplantation research, animal suffering and sacrifice can’t warrant human benefit, even do more harm.

  • When animal suffering is severe but human benefit is obscure or uncertain, it is not morally acceptable to rush into immature clinical trials.


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Animal Welfare Issue-2

  • Is the higher primates’ revolutionary relatedness to human being morally relevant?

  • The higher primates share capacities of intelligence and complex social interactions with human beings to some extent.

  • The likeness between human beings and primates in a biological sense is the fundamental moral judgement.


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Animal Welfare Issue-2

  • Some primates are endangered species, establishing breeding colonies would require the capture of large numbers of wild animals.

  • The safety of the use of primate organs and tissues must also be considered.

  • Which one is more fundamental for moral judgement, animals’ genetic relatedness to human being or their relationship with us?


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Animal Welfare Issue-3

  • Which genetic technology, knocking out a certain gene in pig genome or producing transgenic pigs to overcome immune rejection, is morally justifiable?

  • The transfer of genetic material between humans and pigs raises ethical concerns about “what we are” and “where we are on revolutionary scale”.


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In Chinese Cultural Context

  • The universe and all of its inhabitants (humans, animals, plants and non-living things) are composed of qi, a physico-psychological entity with capacity for creation, change and transformation, which has two basic forms, yin and yang.

  • Humans, animals, plants and nature as a whole are in a close interrelation, mutual dependence and interaction. The well-being of these inhabitants and of nature as a whole is dependent upon the equilibrium between yin and yang.


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In Chinese Cultural Context

  • Human nature (intrinsic worth) is the most valuable, compared with heaven, earth, plants, animals. (Confucius) Human beings are of higher order than animals.

  • The method of practicing ren is analogy and from near to far. (Confucius) “Seeing the other the same as oneself and greeting each other to express care.” (Zeng Zi) From parents/siblings to other relatives, friends, co-workers, neighbours, patients, students etc, from present generation to future generation, from human beings to other animals, plants and eco-system or nature as a whole.


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In Chinese Cultural Context

  • Human beings are not separate from nature but a small part of the natural world. Human beings should not seek to dominate nature but should instead stand in a relationship of care and concern for its continued flourishing.(Taoism)


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In Chinese Cultural Context

  • Buddhism emphasizes simple, non-violent, gentle living. It recognizes that all animals and humans are spiritual entities to be treated with loving kindness. In the well-known Five Precepts, the first one involves abstention from injury to life, and not depriving a living being of life.


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Guidelines and Regulations in China

  • Regulations on Laboratory Animals, issued by National Committee of Science & Technology in 1988.

  • Regulations on Experimental Animals in Medical Research, issued by Ministry of Health in June, 2004.


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Guidelines and Regulations in China

  • 8 chapters, 35 clauses with elaboration

  • It covers: the way animals are produced and subsequently bred, establishing breeding colonies of disease free animals, the husbandry and care of animals, the use and quarantine of animals, professional competence, licensing and quality control of animals.



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