Doctors at NYU Langone have made headlines by transplanting a pig’s kidney into the body of a brain-dead human patient and watching that kidney function without failure or rejection for over a month. Are animal organs the latest leap forward in extending human life? Dr. Arthur Caplan is a professor of bioethics at New York University Langone, where the experiment was conducted. He appeared on 710 WOR’s Len Berman and Michael Riedel in the Morning program to discuss the science and ethics behind the ground-breaking research.
“Instead of saying, you know, let’s volunteer somebody to go first,” Dr. Caplan told Berman and Riedel, “[we said] would they and their family consent to being studied by having this pig kidney, which has, by the way, been genetically tweaked, so that the human body takes it and accepts it more easily, to study it for a few weeks to see whether it actually works, that way we don’t kill anybody who is actually alive, but you can learn a lot by this model.”
Due to a critical shortage of human organs available for donation, Dr. Caplan says the time is ripe to at least consider studying whether or not this process could even work. “It is odd and it is unusual, but, you know, I think the idea of studying it in this model, on a person who is dead and maintained by machines, you know, the first person who gets it when we’re really trying to save their life is going to be grateful because we will have learned some of the problems before we try it in a living human being, to try to save them.”
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