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Price of precaution of human-pig chimeras for transplantation purposes
  1. Christian Munthe
  1. Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science, University of Gothenburg, Box 200, Goteborg 405 30, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Professor Christian Munthe, Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science, Goteborgs Universitet, Goteborg 405 30, Sweden; christian.munthe{at}

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In response to Koplin and Wilkinson, I argue, first, that the uncertain clinical prospects of human-pig chimera based transplantation makes the reason to spend resources for clarifying whether such practice might imply serious ethical breach due to enhanced cognitive capacities of the chimeras rather weak. T he benefits of further pursuing this avenue of research is so uncertain, so that taking even very unclear risks of serious ethical breach (thus in need of clarification for justification of the research) is not worth the price in terms of spent resources, and therefore only limited resources should be spent to clarify such risk before the project is abandoned due to unacceptable risks. Second, I argue that as there are some reason to pursue this avenue further (and thus investigate the risk in question), the analogy to the notion of halting all farming of larger animals for food does not hold up. The reason is that we do not need to probe any further any comparable risk to know that such farming practices should be halted.

A fundamental underlying issue to the question discussed by Koplin and Wilkinson1 in this paper is formulated when they write:

We should therefore be confident that human-pig chimeras would lack morally relevant cognitive capacities before setting out to use them as a source of transplantable human organs. This leaves open the question of how confident …

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  • i For instance, due to the challenge of possible PERV transmission and PERV activation that could cause deadly human pandemics, which is still daunting in spite of recent attempts at overcoming it using gene editing techniques.6–8 In my own humble opinion, this uncertainty is still the most morally pressing with regard to xenotransplantation, much more pressing that the eventuality of off-target cognitive enhancement of human-pig chimaeric individuals.

  • Contributors CM the wrote the entire text.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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