Ethical analysis of the first porcine cardiac xenotransplantation

Journal of Medical Ethics (forthcoming)
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In this article, we provide an ethical analysis of the first porcine cardiac xenotransplant, performed in Maryland, USA in early 2022. David Bennett was offered the experimental procedure after he was deemed ineligible for human heart transplantation and mechanical circulatory support, based on a history of non-compliance. It was reported that Mr Bennett’s previous instances of non-compliance were for medically non-life-threatening conditions years earlier, where the risks of non-compliance were not as high. We argue that, in Mr Bennett’s case, a history of non-compliance in a different context, should not necessarily rule him ineligible for a potentially life-saving treatment now. Furthermore, using previous non-compliance to exclude individuals from donor organs may have the unintended effect of placing the burden of testing xenotransplantation on those who are already disadvantaged. We then argue that it is not enough to rely on patient consent to ethically justify xenotransplantation research. Taking a broad ethical perspective is crucial when mapping a clinical pathway for xenotransplantation.



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