Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Up-and Coming Solution or Immoral Experimentation? The Push Towards Xenotransplants

  If you were to need an organ transplant, especially for something as vital as a heart, it certainly doesn't come without risks involved. Even then, that's just for human organs which are extremely low in supply and much harder to find one that will be suitable as well. This has caused researchers seek other solutions such as the artificial heart or in this case, xenotransplantation (transplanting an organ from one species to another). Lawrence Faucette was the worlds second recipient of a genetically altered pigs heart (which was meant to work better in the human body). Unfortunately, he died six weeks after transplantation due to infection (traces of a virus found normally in pigs), and many other problems. His body reportedly started rejecting his heart as well. 
  The push to be the first is not uncommon in the medical world. Going all the way back to 1967 in South Africa a surgeon, Christiaan Barnard, performed the worlds first heart surgery. He did so without a proper methodology and pushed his patient to the limit (who was already unhealthy; He was a smoker), even after he died. Before Lawrence, the first recipient of a genetically altered pig heart was David Bennet. By the time he got this transplant, we was too sick for a normal transplantation or even an artificial transplantation (just like Lawrence). Is that right? 

  Nothing is wrong with trying to find alternative solutions to an already faulty triage system yet, these two patients didn't live long after their surgeries. Does that make it cruel? Not necessarily. According to Lawrence and his wife, they knew that they didn't have many options. In fact, even with the risks involved, all he wanted was a little more time with his family. According to one of his physicians, Dr. Muhammad M. Mohiuddin, Lawrence tried to engage in his care and the research involved as much as possible. He was given a whole lot more freedom than what happened to Barnards patient and in the end, this is may very well allow advancements to be made and essentially help millions of people who need it. 



  1. I agree with you that I wouldn't consider this cruel. Just as a human organ transplant has risks so does transplanting another animal's organ, and both times these people making the decision are made aware of the risks. I think the world is always advancing and if they have already started to do this eventually, they will figure out how to do it successfully. It is terrible these people passed but they were trying out something new when they had no other options.

  2. It is extremely difficult to do medical testing on humans, so for a patient to consent to this experimental treatment is an anomaly. Being able to perform such a treatment was good for both the patient and the medical community, the patient got his wish of spending more time with his family and now more is known about Xenotransplants, allowing for successful ones in the future.

  3. This is a delicate topic as it tries to ultimately find urgent solutions while adhering to the four pillars of medical ethics. Xenotransplants show promise to ease the organ shortage, and the patient would not have to take anti‐rejection drugs. Like I said, it sounds promising, but where is the line we draw? The medical world is fascinating, with new technology and medical advancements arising. Sounds like an introduction to a science fiction movie. Many could argue Lawrence and David contributed to a better understanding on perfecting transplants. However, I'm curious if our science fiction movie would end or continuously be another sequel of the next medical advancement.