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Read the secret history of xenotransplantation experiments





Credit: Organ FarmThe Scotland on Sunday newspaper has reported on Uncaged Campaigns' protests over the Government's suppression of a critical independent review of xenotransplantation.

The comprehensive review was produced by medical ethics experts at Glasgow University. It had been commissioned by the Government's advisory authority on xenotransplantation, UKXIRA, as part of its official deliberations on the acceptability of the technology.

The academic review, a summary of which has been seen by Uncaged, identified a number of unique and serious legal and ethical problems with pig organ transplants, and seems to criticise implicitly the UKXIRA for lacking the inclination to monitor the ethical acceptability of xenotransplantation. Crucially, the review found that animals are being made to suffer and are being killed for purely economic reasons. UKXIRA has refused, without explanation, to publish the review, written by Professor Sheila McLean and Dr Laura Williamson.

The unsubstantiated refusal by the UKXIRA to publish the report casts a dark shadow over the authority's impartiality and independence. The composition of the Authority is heavily biased in favour of industry, with only one animal welfare representative. The lengthy review conducted by McLean and Williamson was supposed to assist in the development of xenotransplantation policy, but it appears that the policy has already been agreed behind closed doors. The major issues concerning international law and liability, public health, human rights and the moral status of animals are thus being ignored as the Government's approach is dictated by commercial interests.

Minister tries to cover up the cover-up

In an answer to a Parliamentary Question tabled by Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, Department of Health Minister Rosie Winterton stated: "The UKXIRA has considered the review and concluded that it made some useful discussion points and that the summary of the research papers should be published on the UKXIRA website." In fact, contrary to appearances, what is to be published is a very brief summary of the papers that were considered by McLean and Williamson - there are no plans as yet to publish the authors' "useful discussion points".

Dan Lyons comments:

"The review raises profoundly difficult issues for the future of xenotransplantation, but the Government is bent on sweeping them under the carpet. This stifles open debate and reveals a dangerous, biased and ill-informed policy. The Government is promoting the sacrifice of animals and the public interest for the sake of short-term commercial greed."

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Uncaged Campaigns 30.07.03


Uncaged 1993-2012: This is the archived website of Uncaged. All information correct at the time of archiving - November 2012.