Ethics of the First Successful Pig-Human Organ Transplant

by Ryan Kang ‘25

Source: Daily Express

Published Dec. 1st, 2021

Due to a lack of organ donors, many scientists are working on creating genetically modified pigs, also known as chimeras, whose organs can be transplanted into a human.

On September 25th, 2021, Dr. Robert Montgomery successfully implanted the first chimera pig liver in a human at the NYU Langone’s Kimmel Pavilion hospital. This liver was not immediately rejected by the body, and after up to 54 hours of being monitored by doctors, it performed its duties in a near-perfect way compared to human livers.

Although this achievement is a groundbreaking milestone in the scientific and medical community, there is still controversy and debate regarding the ethics of using pigs as a method to save humans who don’t have a donor.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) found the experiment too unethical to pursue, saying “pigs aren’t spare parts and should never be used as such just because humans are too self-centered to donate their bodies to patients desperate for organ transplants.”

While some may believe the system is unethical, this milestone has the possibility of saving thousands of lives. According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 90,000 people are on an ever-growing waitlist for a kidney transplant. In normal circumstances, the vast majority of these people wouldn’t be able to survive, especially because their donors would need to have perfectly-matching kidneys.

Currently, thousands of pigs each day are being killed and consumed as food. Now, instead of simply eating these pigs, they could be utilized to save thousands of lives. If altered to transfer additional organs, they could save even more.

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