Kidneys and livers should be harvested from aborted babies to help deal with the organ donor shortage, a stem cell professor has said.
Sir Richard Gardner of Oxford University thinks the move would be a more realistic alternative to other technologies which are being developed. Scientists are exploring several ways of addressing the shortage including ‘humanised’ organs in genetically modified pigs. But Sir Richard said that foetal tissues may offer a more realistic solution to the lack of organs: ‘It’s not something that’s talked about much. It is at least a temporary solution’.
But pro-life groups have branded the suggestion as ‘horrifying’. Quoted by the Christian Institute, Dr Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship said that unborn children deserve ‘protection, respect, wonder and empathy’.
In the UK 7,000 of the 8,000 people waiting for a transplant need a kidney. More than 300 need a liver transplant, 222 need lungs, and almost 100 people have requested a heart transplant. In any given year patients needing a kidney have less than a one-in-three chance of receiving the organ.
Speaking on the ethical issues surrounding Dr Gardner’s suggestion, Josephine Quintavalle of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, asked: ‘At what stage do you say to the woman who is to have an abortion, “Can we have some organs for transplant?”’
Sir Richard Gardner’s suggestion reflects the increasingly amoral trend of medical ethics.