Animal-Organ Transplants Defended, for Now

A “Bridge Solution,” Says Meeting in Rome

VATICAN CITY, MAR. 26, 2001 ( Is it morally licit to transplant animal tissues and organs to man to combat illnesses?

This was a question facing the Pontifical Academy for Life. From March 17-18, the academy gathered specialists in biomedicine, veterinary science, philosophy, psychology, ethics and law, to address the matter.

The consensus from the meeting, according to a press statement issued by the academy on Saturday, was this:

For the time being, from the ethical point of view, the experts said that the transplant of organs and tissues from animals can be regarded as a “bridge solution,” “capable of saving the life of a patient in imminent danger of death, while awaiting the reception of a compatible human organ.”

The conferees, however, acknowledged that further study of the matter was needed.

In its statement, the Academy for Life said it was specifically concerned with the ethical content of transplants from animals, namely, “their therapeutic significance, [and] the anthropological and ethical repercussions of surmounting barriers between one species and another.”

Among the participants at the meeting were transplant experts from Cambridge, Harvard and London, and members of the International Court of Justice.

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