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Moral uncertainty and the farming of human-pig chimeras
  1. Julian Koplin1,2,
  2. Dominic Wilkinson1,3,4
  1. 1 Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2 University of Melbourne Law School, Carlton, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3 Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford, UK
  4. 4 John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Julian Koplin, University of Melbourne Law School, Carlton, VIC 3053, Australia; koplinj{at}


It may soon be possible to generate human organs inside of human-pig chimeras via a process called interspecies blastocyst complementation. This paper discusses what arguably the central ethical concern is raised by this potential source of transplantable organs: that farming human-pig chimeras for their organs risks perpetrating a serious moral wrong because the moral status of human-pig chimeras is uncertain, and potentially significant. Those who raise this concern usually take it to be unique to the creation of chimeric animals with ‘humanised’ brains. In this paper, we show how that the same style of argument can be used to critique current uses of non-chimeric pigs in agriculture. This reveals an important tension between two common moral views: that farming human-pig chimeras for their organs is ethically concerning, and that farming non-chimeric pigs for food or research is ethically benign. At least one of these views stands in need of revision.

  • moral status
  • chimeras
  • stem cell research
  • transplantation

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  • Contributors JK devised the project and took the lead in writing the manuscript. DW provided critical feedback and contributed to writing the manuscript.

  • Funding JK and DW, through their involvement with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, received support from the Victorian State Government through the Operational Infrastructure Support (OIS) Program. DW was supported for this work by a grant from the Wellcome trust (WT106587/Z/14/Z.) DW would also like to acknowledge the generous support of the Russell and Mab Grimwade Miegunyah Fund; part of this work was undertaken while he was a Miegunyah distinguished visiting research fellow at the University of Melbourne.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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