Transplants, xenotransplants, xenotransfusion and xenoexperimentation—Are they ethical? Do they show we evolved from animals?
Published: 13 December 2008 (GMT+10)
This week we feature four enquiries, relating to the ethics of transplants and the medical implications of animal-human differences and similarities. The enquiries are from PR of India, Stephen J of New South Wales, David D of England, and Annette N of Illinois. CMI’s Jonathan Sarfati and Andrew Lamb respond.
Transplants: Are blood and organ transplants ethical?
I am an M.B.B.S. student. In today’s modern treatment of various diseases organ transplants seems to be a valuable solution. My question is whether it is ethical or not? What does the bible say regarding this? I also request you to comment on blood donation?
Thank you for considering my question.
You’re welcome. I’ve commented before in reply to a misotheistic article in a medical journal that should have known better, which made a quip about blood transfusion:
After all, a Jehovah’s Witness would rather die than receive a blood transfusion.
But they are a cult,denying the deity of Christ, for one thing, and they have no biblical basis for their stance on transfusions. The biblical injunction against eating blood (Genesis 9:4, Acts 15:20) has nothing to do with transfusion. For one thing, we should take Scripture according to its original meaning, and the original writers and readers had no concept of blood transfusion. And from a scientific perspective, eating is completely different—eaten blood is digested into its components so it ceases to be blood, and the body re-uses the components for different things. Transfused blood is not digested but functions as blood with all its vital properties for life.
It would seem to be biblically blessed to donate blood, because Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), and the Bible teaches, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11,14).
I think the same principle would apply to organ donation: in both cases, they ameliorate the effects of the curse, which in the Bible is a blessing. I explain the same principle to support pain relief during childbirth if the mother requests it.
Many of the Mosaic laws had health aspects to them. The rules about quarantine, hand-washing, diet, etc. seem to have been intended to keep the Israelites healthy and disease-free. See The first book of public hygiene. With many diseases, the infectious agents are present in the blood (hence blood tests for various diseases), and with some pathogens, ingestion can lead to infection. Butchering and eating of animals can lead to disease transmission—undercooked chicken for example is a notorious health hazard—so the New Testament injunction against eating blood could be seen as an indication that particular care is warranted when it comes to blood.
There are also ritual purity aspects to the Mosaic laws, to symbolize the separation of the Messianic people from the surrounding nations until the Messiah came. This explains the prohibition against wearing clothes of mixed fabric or eating lobster (a sea creature with legs crosses the symbolic land-water boundary).
(Dr) Jonathan Sarfati
Xenotransplantation: Is it ethical to transplant animal organs into humans?
A subject that I think creation science should address is zenotransplantation. That is the harvesting of pig organs for human transplantation. Pig organs have a naturally occurring enzyme which makes them incompatible with humans. Genetic science knocks out the enzyme, and then the organs are compatible. The question I would raise is, is it coincidental that pigs are unclean animals in the Law of Moses. Could unclean mean that they cannot be transplanted into humans without causing disease?
[New South Wales, Australia]
I think the principles, if not the specifics, governing xenotransplantation were covered in Dr Batten’s article Frankenstein foods? Genetically modified foods and the Bible, Creation 24(4):10–13, 2002. That was one aim of such an article—to give readers the tools to think about other bioethical issues.
One point Dr Batten made is that the distinction between clean and unclean animals was part of the Mosaic Law, which applied only to Israel from the Exodus to the Resurrection (see The Law of Moses and the Law of Christ). The New Testament explicitly states that all animals are now clean (1 Timothy 4:4; Acts 10:9–15). Another point is if the technique saves lives, it is likely to be permissible under the Dominion Mandate that gives humans the right to use animals for our benefit.
This does not mean that xenotransplantation is not without risk of infection from viruses carried by the animal organ, but some risk also applies to transplantation from human to human. This is another ‘wisdom’ issue (cf. the discussions on the ‘creationist views’ of vaccination, global warming and environmentalism).
It is conceivable that there could be higher health risks associated with some animals than with others, and that this may have been a factor in God’s designation of certain animals as clean and others as unclean.
(Dr) Jonathan Sarfati
Xenotransfusion: If we evolved from apes, why not use monkey blood for transfusions?
Having read the Creation magazine, may I put a thought to you, if we all come from monkeys, why do we not use monkeys’ blood and other blood for human blood transfusions? We use only human blood for human transfusions and for medical uses. If monkey blood is not like human blood, why not say so, for this would stop evolutionists in their tracks. I understand that pigs’ internal organs are more like ours, but some people would not like pig organs in them.
I have been in contact with a humanist who is an ardent evolutionist. I asked him as he believed that humans came from apes, why he did not mate with an ape and then they would have a missing link. Also why do they not have apes’ blood for a transfusion, and use apes’ body parts; that is if we all came from an ape. But he only could say that this happened a long time ago. I believe this could be used against evolution. They say much but fail to back up their words.
Yours in His Name
Animals and people were designed by the same Creator, so it is no surprise that different creatures will have some biological subsystems in common while other organs/systems differ. It makes sense for a designer to reuse certain subsystems. The same principle applies with things built by humans. See Are look-alikes related?
Note that just because two different creatures may have one very similar organ, this does not mean their other organs will be similar.
Evolution is at a loss to explain unpredictable internal congruencies between organisms that outwardly bear little resemblance to one another. For a prominent evolution-hostile example, see the ‘Bananas in pyjamas?’ paragraph in our article Furry little humans?
Various pig organs have been transplanted into humans. I understand transplanting pig thyroid glands into humans has been a fairly standard treatment for many years now in some countries. Pig heart valves are also being used in humans. I am unaware of any ape organs having been transplanted into humans.
Regarding blood transfusions between different creatures, note that even human-to-human transfusions are dangerous unless the blood groups are compatible (see also Blood types and their origin: Countering the Critics). This is because the recipient’s immune system can destroy the donated red blood cells, releasing hemoglobin and causing kidney failure. So even greater prudence and care would be warranted if using non-human blood.
Another medical reason for not using monkey blood for humans needing transfusions could be unrelated to the degree of similarity between monkey blood and human blood. All sorts of viruses and other potentially pathological factors can be found in blood. A great fear involved with any xenotransplant is that of introducing previously-unknown diseases. The Red Cross will not accept donations from men who have engaged in male-to-male sex, due to the higher risk of that blood containing known pathogens. Imagine the risks in using blood from creatures that could be carrying unknown potential pathogens.
Evolutionists today are generally inconsistent in many ways. However, this may be something to be thankful for—the Nazis backed up their evolutionary beliefs with actions by exterminating Jews, Gypsies, and other ethnic groups they classed as inferior (see The Darwin-Hitler connection). And Stalin backed up his evolutionary beliefs with actions by commissioning his top scientist to develop an army of half-human half-ape super-soldiers—unsuccessfully of course, because apes and humans will not hybridize. See Stalin’s ape-man superwarriors. Regrettably, in many situations evolutionists do still back up their beliefs with actions (abortion, euthanasia, eugenics).
Xenoexperimentation: If we are different to animals, why test things on animals first?
Why do people do animal research? Man has a separate creation from the animals. We are distinctly different. If that is the case why do we do medical experiments on animals? Wouldn’t the experiments be useless since we are so different? An analogy would be testing antibiotics on plants, which are also different but useless for large amounts of medical research. What is the similarity that we have with animals that allows us to do medical testing? I am not talking about the ethical aspect—assuming God put us in charge, that gives mankind the right—but the physiology of the tests even being a possibility due to the extreme differences between kinds?
Thank you for your time,
Various animals, like rats, rabbits, and monkeys have particular organs or physiological subsystems that are very similar to the corresponding organs/systems in humans, making them suitable for tests related to those organs/systems. Humans and animals are not entirely different, physiologically. It would not be expected that they would be, on the basis that one intelligent Creator would be likely to use the same design elements across different created kinds, just like an engineer would reuse some components in designing various models of a car.
Consider the original Porsche and the Volkswagen ‘Beetle’ cars. They both have air-cooled, flat, horizontally-opposed, 4-cylinder engines in the rear, independent rear suspension, two doors and trunk/boot in the front—because both were designed by the father-son team Ferdinand Porsche Sr. and Jr.
Similarly, a rat’s immune system works much like ours; they have similar blood glucose homeostasis; nervous system, etc. If there were not the similarities between different created kinds of animals and humans, we might be inclined to conclude that there are many creators, not just one. This is the ‘biotic message’ (see the book of this title by ReMine, and this review)—the thread of similarity that runs through all living things that speaks of one Designer, one Engineer who created everything. Reuse of features indicates the Creator’s authority over and mastery of His creation (see ‘Not to Be Used Again’: Homologous Structures and the Presumption of Originality as a Critical Value).
So, it is useful to study the organs and systems of animals to get an understanding of our own, but always with the proviso that we are different and what applies to animals needs to be verified in humans before we can say that this is how we work. Some drugs, for example, differ in their effects. For example, cats cannot take morphine or aspirin and horses cannot take morphine, while both these drugs can provide effective pain relief in humans.
- Coghlan, A., Mystery over drug trial debacle deepens, New Scientist <http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn9734>, 14 August 2006.
- Trial drug affected animal glands, BBC News, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4823992.stm>, 20 March 2006.