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Morality of Animal to Human Organ Transplant: Argumentative Essay

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Morality is rarely clear-cut without objections or questions. The morality of animal to human organ transplant is no exception. With innumerable factors created by beneficial techniques and harmful tactics, the dispute is far from irrelevant, especially with its crucial influence on life and death. Animal organs being transplanted into humans is lifesaving; however, it is also life taking and therefore can be argued to be either moral or not.

Xenotransplantation is the “process of grafting or transplanting organs or tissues between members of different species” (“Xenotransplantation”). This is primarily the transplant of animal organs into humans. This process was first witnessed in the seventeenth century by Jean Baptiste Denis when he “initiated the clinical practice of animal-to-human blood transfusion” but was unsuccessful in his venture which led to the basement of the practice in France, Denis’ home country (McNamee). In the nineteenth century, animals like sheep, rabbits, dogs, cats, rats, chickens, and pigeons were donated for their skin. In this xenotransplantation process, the living donor was strapped to the patient for several days. However, the frog, which was the most popular at the time, was skinned alive for immediate grafting onto its patient. Specifically, during the nineteenth century, a cornea from a pig was transplanted into a human in 1838 which proved successful. However, the first real successes took place in the twentieth century. In 1907, Alexis Carrel made organ transplantation feasible for the first time with consistency. More interestingly, Serge Voronoff attempted to return “the ‘zest of life’ of elderly men. He attempted to reverse this element of the aging process was to transplant slices of chimpanzee or baboon testicle into the testicles of his elderly patients” (McNamee). This was wildly popular in the United States and Europe during the 1920s with several hundred operations. In the 1960s, chimpanzees became animal donors for kidney patients. This trial, however, was extremely unsuccessful with 12 of the 13 transplants between chimpanzees and humans resulting in organ rejection or infectious issues within two months after the procedure (McNamee). The history of xenotransplantation is driven by the need for solutions to human medical issues. And while exceedingly unsuccessful, the few successes led to life-saving breakthroughs in the medical field.

Currently, “pigs are a good choice of organ donor because of their short gestation period, rapid growth rate, and size of organs, which match those of humans” (Phillips). Pigs are the animal of choice because of their distinct match in many departments to humans, which many other animals, most surprisingly primates, lack. This makes pig organs “the most compatible with humans” which is leading to a higher success rate which is life-saving (“Genetics”).

The life-saving treatments created by xenotransplantation are easy solutions for thousands of individuals. If more people donated their organs, xenotransplantation would be non-essential. But with such a lack of people doing so, animal to human transplants have become almost necessary. In the United States, an “average of 79 people receive organ transplants every day, but that 18 people die each day because of a shortage of organs” (McNamee). While there is an exceeding number of people receiving organs, the number in need versus the number in supply are instrumentally different. “The search for transplantable animal organs is driven by a severe and chronic shortage of human organs” (Masci). In numerical terms, the shortage is drastic. For example, the United States in 2017 had 34,770 transplants. However, there were 115,759 patients on the waiting list (Phillips). There is a dire need for organs but a lack of them, xenotransplantation was born in this struggle. It was a response to the need and proves a valid reason as to why it was a moral decision. It is also known that “using animal organs would reduce the length of time many people wait for a suitable organ and would allow transplants to occur while the recipient is still somewhat healthy and better able to tolerate surgery” (Phillips). Philips here is arguing for the morality of xenotransplantation because it increases the chance of a successful surgery and lowers pain within the person. Animal organ transplantations into humans are immensely significant because of the lack of medical help for those in pain and it also proves to reduce the pain in a quicker and more effective manner because of its availability.

Animal to human transplant is a life-saving procedure in a time of need. However, there is a loss of animal life in the process to do so. It is, therefore, in many ways, extremely important. The animals, predominantly pigs at the moment, used for xenotransplantation are often raised for such procedures, which is an ethical concern for many. “Animal rights activists are appalled at the notion that pigs, baboons, and other creatures will be “harvested” for organs and other tissue” (Masci). The idea that animals are being used as involuntary donors is just one stance against xenotransplantation. Many “argue that receiving tissue from animals could expose the patient and possibly the entire human population to a dangerous virus” (Masci). Animal-borne diseases being introduced into the human population could have long-lasting effects and cause issues that could possibly be more detrimental than the ones the transplant of organs is solving. Pigs, specifically, are “carriers for a retrovirus called porcine endogenous retrovirus (PERV). The virus has been shown to infect human cells, but the consequences of infection have not yet been determined” (Phillips). So while there is a strong argument as to why xenotransplantation is beneficial, ethical concerns involving the loss of innocent life and the introduction of new diseases present a strong case against.

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Over many centuries, philosophers have argued over the value of animal life. John Stuart Mill of the nineteenth century was at the forefront of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is “judging an action by its utility meaning usefulness” which translates to an actions morality is determined by the consequences of such (Hirtzel). Utilitarianism focuses on what results in the most amount of happiness for the most amount of people. Utilitarianism would see xenotransplantation as moral because it focuses on the betterment of a significant number of people. It would also bring elation to the close ones of the patient, thereby spreading an immense amount of happiness. Hedonism, defined as “the belief that pleasure is the only good that exists,” is also one of one of utilitarianism’s primary principals (Hirtzel). In an article discussing the morality of animal to human organ transplant, writer justifies xenotransplantation through Hedonism saying, “the best consequences will be those that include the greatest possible balance of pleasure over pain. A good reason for permitting animal suffering, then, is that such suffering is a necessary price to pay in bringing about the best consequences, all considered” (Regan). Under Hedonism, the limiting of suffering would make animal organ transplant acceptable. Therefore, according to Mill and utilitarianism, xenotransplantation is moral because it amounts to the most amount of happiness for the most amount of people and equates to the intrinsic good.

Immanuel Kant, an eighteenth-century Prussian philosopher, believed in an “even moral playing field” that is guided by actions and not by consequences (Hirtzel). He does this through categorical imperatives. The first is the Formula of Universal Law. This categorical imperative first step is to determine if the reason for doing an action is a reason everyone could have. In simpler terms, it is asking if a special exception is being made. If so, it is not moral. In relation to xenotransplantation, a special exception would be made by the patients in order to end their suffering at the expense of another. The second step in this imperative is to decide that if everyone performed the action, would the world be substandard? If everyone killed animals for their organs, the world would suffer tremendously. Therefore, it is immortal. The second categorical imperative is the Formula of the End in Itself. This imperative focuses on people’s “intrinsic value because of their ability to reason” and how people are never a means to an end (Hirtzel). The question to ask is if another is being used as an object or their ability to reason is taken away. If yes, the decision is immoral. In the case of xenotransplantation, since animals are being used as a means to an end the need for organs, it is immoral. “The Kantian idea that animals are never to be treated merely as a means to human ends, however good these ends might be” (Regan). Kant makes clear that animals should not be treated cruelly by humans, especially for their benefit. Animal organ transplant cannot be justified as moral by Kant because every categorical imperative turns away from morality.

Lawrence Kohlberg, a twentieth-century psychologist, believed that morality is developed through a series of six stages. The higher the stage, the stronger the morality. Xenotransplantation can be argued under the first, second, fifth, and sixth stage. The first stage is about self-interest and the anticipation of pleasure or pain.“The immediate physical consequences of an action determine if it is good or bad” and therefore, a person in need of an organ transplant and undergoes animal-organ donation is working to achieve the best physical consequence of their action (Hirtzel). But there is a lack of a sense of others since the patient is taking their life above the lives of others. Although the second stage primary focuses on an exchange of favors, it also highlights how the best action is one that satisfies one’s own desires with a constant question of what is in it for the recipient (Hirtzel). As a dying patient on the waiting list for a donor, the most desirable outcome is life and the means by which it is achieved is animal organ transplant. The fifth stage centers on moral action and principles endorsed by the inalienable rights and liberties that individual is given by nature to ensure the most amount of good to the largest number of people. Things like life fall under this category. Therefore, when a patient or their family decides to use xenotransplantation, it is moral because it allows the patient to experience their inalienable rights despite the ethical concern for the loss of another life. And since multiple people could potentially benefit from the donation of one animal, it can be considered right because it is more life-giving than taking. Stage six focus on the worth of all living beings and how no being is to be used as a means to an end. This stage has important figures like Gandhi, Jesus, Buddha, and Martin Luther King Jr. Figures like this encouraged equality among all (Hirtzel). Therefore, through the perspective of stage six, animals are to be solely treated as equals and are not to be harmed. If on lower developmental stages such as one and two, is it easy to perceive xenotransplantation as a moral decision. However, if a step is taken back onto stages like five and six, it is tremendously immoral and is against important principles.

Buddhism, a major world religion, is a faith focused on inner peace and wisdom. The goal of Buddhists is to achieve enlightenment by “utilizing morality, meditation and wisdom” ( Editors). Buddhism encourages the avoidance of self-indulgences. All Buddhists live by five precepts which refrain from “killing living things, taking what is not given, sexual misconduct, lying, [and] using drugs or alcohol” ( Editors). Buddhism also has five aggregates which are a way to analyze “personal experiences” (“The Five Aggregates”). They are form, sensation, perception, mental formation, and consciousness. Aggregates are shared by humans and animals and therefore animals are not separate and are not to be harmed (Peto). Animals in the Buddhist faith are often symbols for teachings and are highly regarded. They are also seen as equal. Xenotransplantation, through the eyes of Buddhism, is not moral because it goes against two of the five precepts by killing another and taking what is not willingly given. And since animal organ transplants goes against another who shares the five aggregates, it is still immoral. “One who, while himself seeking happiness oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter” (Dhammapada 132). Therefore, if a patient in need of an organ hurts another, which includes animals under the five aggregates, happiness and nirvana cannot be reached. This also warns against how the animals are bred for xenotransplantations since they are being oppressed. “All living things fear being beaten with clubs. All living things fear being put to death. Putting oneself in the place of the other, let no one kill nor cause another to kill” (Dhammapada 129). This quote again speaks to how animals are equal. if the patient was willing to trade places with the animal they would be taking the life of, it would be moral. However, here it also states that harming and killing another is deplorable, making xenotransplantation still immoral. “He who lives only for pleasures, and whose soul is not in harmony, who considers not the food he eats, is idle, and has not the power of virtue — such a man is moved by Mara, is moved by selfish temptations, even as a weak tree is shaken by the wind” (Dhammapada 7). In this quote, Mara, a demon who tempts with self-indulgence, takes those who live only for themselves with ease. Animal organ transplant would be immoral because the patients would be acting under the influence of Mara because they are being selfish and not considering others. Because Buddhism considers all living things equal in soul, the killing of an animal for personal needs is not life saving and is extremely injudicious. It is unacceptable due to it being against key principles and its high level of selfishness.

Xenotransplantation is moral in terms of the saving of human life but immorality can be found in the harming of animals. Therefore, both sides are able to be seen. To Mill, many physicians, and people, animal to organ transplant is moral but to Kant, Buddhism, Kohlberg, and many members of the public, it is immoral. Personally, I can see how it is a quick and easy solution to an ever growing problem. However, I believe the animal organ transplant into humans is immoral. I also see it as a careless decision because of the potential ramifications that could become a future medical issue due to an obscene number of unknowns. Personally, my moral conscience screams out against xenotransplantation. However, a part of me understands the need for such procedures. I also do not know the pain many of the patients are experiencing and can understand how this would be a viable solution. I do not personally think I could do it, but I see how others could. With the evidence presented, I believe that the morality can truly be argued based on what the value of human life versus animal is and whether selfishness is in play. It is not the benefits or detriments in argument, for they have verifiable quality. The discussion is surrounding morality, which has no definite and explicit solution.

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