Silver lining of the first pig-to-human organ transplant

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Stephanie Trujillo is a rising senior student majoring in English and Spanish. She writes for The Miami Hurricane and focuses on opinion to share her perspective on what’s happening in the world today.

When heart surgeons successfully completed a pig-to-human heart transplant on January 7, 2022, they may have opened the door to both lifesaving procedures for the millions waiting for a vital organ and a boatload of controversy. Many of those in line, however, have no time to debate ethics.

The recipient, 57 years old David Bennett Sr. was a former inmate who began experiencing symptoms of heart failure in October 2020, but failed to take medication consistently, follow doctor’s orders, and attend follow-up visits. His lack of compliance eventually cost him a spot on the donor waiting list.

Leslie ShumakerDowney, the sister of the man Bennett assaulted, shared with news outlets that she felt he was not a worthy recipient of the altered heart. She condemns Bennett’s second chance at life after leaving his brother paralyzed in 1988.

The sad truth is that his participation was necessary for the future of medicine. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, in the United States 17 people die every day while waiting for transplants. Regulating pig transplants would give people another survival option.

Muhammad Mohiuddun, a University of Maryland surgeon and head of the research team behind the transplant, struggled to get U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to begin to test the probability of survival of a person with a pig’s heart.

the FDA asked the team to find a pig in a medical-grade facility and perform 10 successful pig-to-baboon heart transplants before human trials began. Mohiuddun said baboon transplants cost around $500,000, which delayed their progress until December 2021, when Bennett’s doctor introduced the idea of ​​a pig’s heart.

Bennett’s deteriorating condition led the FDA to grant the research team emergency clearance to conduct a pig-to-human transplant operation without the previously requested trials.

Stephanie Trujillo is a rising senior at the U aiming to share her perspective on current events.

Although the recipient is a former prisoner, the medical field is not concerned with the criminal history of patients as claimed by the BBC. In the medical world, everyone is eligible and deserves treatment to survive because they are not within the realm of the law. Their mission is to save lives.

In the pursuit of regulation of pig-to-human transplantation, the situation was ideal. Bennett was ineligible for a human heart transplant and had been on cardiac support for two months with an irregular heartbeat that prevented him from receiving a mechanical heart pump.

“It was either die or do this transplant,” Bennet said in a statement provided by the University of Maryland Medical School ahead of her surgery.

The power to transplant pig organs into humans would save many lives but it challenges morality and legitimacy.

Scientists have been testing the possibility of non-human organ transplants for years. Back in 2017scientists have created the first human-animal hybrids proving that non-human organisms can survive in pigs.

Although living with a pig’s organ inside one’s body seems skeptical, pig-to-human transplantation is an experimental survival hypothesis at the moment. Transplantation is in its infancy as doctors research and perfect their engineering of the organ for optimal survival rates as opportunities such as Bennett’s present themselves.

Shortly after doctors build an artificial organ they trust, the FDAin charge of the nation’s public health, will go through multiple sturdy steps pre-pig transplant trials are publicly offered as an alternative to the donor waiting list.

Morally, the large-scale euthanasia of pigs for human survival is also in question. As human beings, we have a duty to defend animal welfare. If animals are genetically modified to save human lives, their physical and psychological needs must be met.

While some may still question the morality of the situation, the truth is that Americans consume approximately 66 pounds of pork per year. Consumption seems less vital than life-saving organ transplants.

Unfortunately, Bennett died on March 8 but the exact cause of death is still unknown. Although he was successful, the heart transplant is still considered a success because Bennett’s body did not immediately reject the pig’s heart, allowing him to live with the pig’s heart for a month.

The significant advance of this heart transplant is the beginning of another medical industrialization aimed at the preservation of human life. Bennett’s transplant marks the beginning of the regulation of pig organ transplantation in humans. More so, the procedure gives hope that one day medical professionals will be able to give people suffering from organic complications another chance at life.


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