INDEPENDENT NEWS

Greens Urge Debate On Animal-Human Transplants

Published: Thu 23 Dec 1999 04:42 PM
Greens Urge Debate On Animal-Human Transplants (Xenotransplantation)
Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley is calling for urgent debate over Xenotransplantation - the process of transferring animal cells into humans.
Ms Kedgley said the approval for an Auckland based company to transplant pig cells into people with insulin-dependent diabetes could be imminent, and urgent public debate was required on the ethics and safety of xenotransplantation.
While welcoming the Ministry of Health's decision not to grant permission to the South Auckland company Diatranz to start clinical trials on insulin dependent diabetics immediately, Ms Kedgley said the Ministry's reported comments that this was only a 'temporary setback' suggested there was an urgent need to begin a public debate on the ethical and other health and safety considerations before any formal approval was given.
"Xenotransplantation is an issue with profound ethical and safety considerations," she said. "It involves crossing the species barrier between humans and animals which has existed for millenia, and tampering with the very basis of life.
"It raises the possibility of disease transfer between species, cross-over diseases from pigs to humans and of new infectious and, possibly, deadly, viruses," Ms Kedgley said. "It also raises questions as to whether sacrificing animals for xenotransplants is ethically and scientifically acceptable."
"There are so many unknowns in the field of xenotransplantation that nobody really knows what the implications are," she pointed out. "This is why it is essential that all of these issues are thoroughly investigated in a wide-ranging debate before any approvals are given for clinical trials," she said.
To date there has been no public consultation or debate about these issues.
"Let's not repeat the mistakes of genetic engineering, and try to introduce a new, highly risky and controversial technology before there has been a proper public debate or even a proper regulatory regime in place."
Ms Kedgley said she has the utmost sympathy for the plight of diabetics, and supports research to improve their health, but says that while it was perhaps possible that xenotransplantation could benefit individual patients it could also pose grave risks to the wider community.
ends
Contact Sue Kedgley: 4706728, 025 2709088

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