Personal Views

This is where I start to draw the line

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 14 September 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:696
  1. Neville Goodman

    Isent photocopies of a couple of articles to a colleague. He threw them in the bin. Well, unsolicited mail deserves no more, whether from an insurance company or from a colleague. Except that the articles, though not written by me, summarised pretty well my unease with xenotransplantation, and his specialty will be affected greatly if these transplants work. His attitude, and I suspect the attitude of many who are directly involved, is quite simple: my patients will benefit; my loved one will get better.

    Last June the BBC in a Panorama programme tackled animal transplants, but it looked no further. True, the programme carefully underlined the practical difficulties that still lie in the way of off the shelf organs, but the ethics of the issue were scarcely touched on. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics, we were told, had decided that xenotransplantation was ethical.

    There is nothing cut and dried about ethics. There is no measurement of ethicity, no associated e value, in some way analogous to the p value of statistical probability. Is abortion ethical? It depends who you ask. A statement in the Nuffield report on xenotransplantation, much quoted in the media as justification for the use of animal organs, was of the large number of people on the transplant waiting lists. That is not ethics; …

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