Joint Ethico-Medical Committee
The Catholic Union of Great Britain
The Guild of Catholic Doctors

Response to the
Department of Health Advisory Group
on the
Ethics of Xenotransplantation

We have no objection to the use of animals as sources of transplant organs or tissue, subject to appropriate safeguards to obviate avoidable suffering or distress to the animals. (1.32, 4.4) With regard to their well being we agree with the Nuffield Council on Bioethics report ('Animal to Human transplants') that sequential removal of organs or tissues from animals should be prohibited.(5.24) We also consider that it should be not be permissible to patent transgenic animals.(4.53)

We do not have a problem with the transfer of individual human genes (or a small number of genes) into animals of other species(4.45), but we are opposed to any xenotransplantation which might modify the germline, and particularly to any transplantation of sex organs or gametes.(7.12) We are opposed to any use of human tissue for transplantation into animals. (cf 4.38)

With respect to human organ donors we do not consider that it would be appropriate to have an 'opting out' system as opposed to the present 'opting in' system. (2.8) We are opposed to the use of organs from any human person (including those in the persistent vegetative state or an anencephalic foetus) unless proper prior consent has been given and they are already certainly dead (not merely dying). (4.14)

Concerning the possibility of conscientious objections on the part of health care workers or others, whilst xenografting does not present us with any serious problem, we hold that no-one can be obliged to act against his/her conscience by law or any other authority, the more especially since the coherence of society depends on the conscientious adherence to its laws and rules by the individual. He or she should, however, always be willing to explain his/her position and to allow the patient or other party to seek help or care from someone else.(7.32, 7.33)


March 1996
Signed by:
President of the Catholic Union of Great Britain
Master of the Guild of Catholic Doctors
Chairman of the Joint Ethico-Medical Committee