You are here

Growing Human Organs for Fun and Profit

Our friends at Freethink Media have an excellent new video out about medical innovation—in this case, how a new company is developing genetically modified pigs that can grow human organs. 

As the video points out, we already use animals and their body parts for everything from breakfast and lunch to clothing and furniture. And domestic hogs in particular have long been an asset to medical treatment—medical supply companies started using them to make insulin for diabetics as far back as the 1920s. But using living animals, especially ones with cute faces, for medical purposes has its critics. On one fringe we have groups like People for the Ethical Treament of Animals (PETA) with their wacky PR stunts and questionable medical ethics, and on another we have groups like Greenpeace that insist genetically modified organisms, whether for medical or agricutural purposes, should be forbidden as unacceptably unnatural. We also have ethicists who demand that human organs should never be bought and sold, despite over 5,000 people dying in the U.S. alone every year waiting for a compatible transplant.

The good news is that there are many brilliant people at pharmaceutical and bio-medical companies working hard every day to bring us new treatment options, including ones that make use of live animals and recombinant DNA technology. The bad news is that some of the organizations referenced above (and others) are actively trying to block the access of sick people to these new developments. Hopefully, policymakers in the U.S. will allow markets to give each person what they want—access to the latest treatments for those who want them, and the freedom to not participate for others. Americans with late-stage kidney disease, for exmple, should be free to turn down a for-profit kidney or one harvested from genetically modified livestock. They just should not be able to stop me, you, my mother, your brother, or anyone else from accepting one.