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news release

ANGER AS GOVERNMENT IGNORES EXPERT ADVICE TO BAN ANIMAL ORGAN TRANSPLANTS

Credit: Organ FarmA landmark independent review into the ethics and legality of animal organ transplants ('xenotransplantation') has concluded that there are huge legal and ethical problems with the technology. The authors conclude that clinical trials should not go ahead and may never be justified. It signals another nail in the coffin of xenotransplantation research. However, the Government has rejected without explanation its own experts' advice, fuelling concerns that policy has already been 'stitched-up' in favour of drug company interests.

The review was commissioned by a Department of Health body as part of the Government's consideration of the acceptability of xenotransplantation. In 1997, the Government set up the United Kingdom Xenotransplantation Interim Regulatory Authority (UKXIRA) to examine the acceptability of the controversial research effort and offer ministers advice. Announcements made by xenotransplantation companies such as Imutran in 1995 claimed human trials of pig organs were just around the corner. However, revelations of severe animal suffering, a lack of progress and the risk of viruses jumping the species barrier from pigs to humans have combined to raise widespread serious concerns about the desirability of pursuing xenotransplantation.

The law and ethics review was conducted by Professor Sheila McLean (a previous appointee to UKXIRA) and her colleague, ethicist Dr Laura Williamson at the University of Glasgow. Their comprehensive report was submitted in July 2002 and took into account patient rights, public health issues, the potential for viable xenotransplantation, alternative approaches and the treatment of animals. Building on previously published work, the first draft was rejected by the Department of Health for being 'too long' for policy advisors to read. A second shorter draft has now been rejected without explanation, despite predominantly positive reviews.

This comes shortly after a historic legal victory gained by animal rights group Uncaged Campaigns allowing publication of leaked documents that describe pig-to-primate organ transplant experiments. A central aspect of the group's legal argument was that the documents reveal deliberate Government bias and failure to apply regulations.

The decision by UKXIRA not to publish the report is likely to reinforce the growing realisation that the Government is not willing to follow through a democratic policy-making process that takes all relevant issues into account. Dan Lyons, director of Uncaged Campaigns, comments:

"It's now clearer than ever that a pro-xenotransplantation policy has already been stitched-up between the Government and industry. The Government and UKXIRA pledged to consider all the relevant moral and scientific issues and keep the acceptability of xenotransplantation under review. That seems to have been a smokescreen, designed to give the impression of open and democratic Government.

"The reality is that the Government is prepared to send animals to a truly horrific fate and endanger public health, simply to help prop up confidence in what amounts to bio-alchemy. The authority of the Government is ebbing away because its actions are not legitimate or democratic. We shall be protesting vociferously and pursuing all available means to hold the Government to account for its disreputable conduct."

ACTION!

Email the UKXIRA at dhmail@doh.gsi.gov.uk. Using this news release, complain about their biased and prejudiced conduct. Ask them to explain why they felt Prof McLean's review "lacked balance in some respects". Also ask them what advice they had received from Department of Health officials about the publication of the report. Ask them to re-consider their decision not to publish this important independent review.

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Uncaged Campaigns 01.07.03

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Uncaged 1993-2012: This is the archived website of Uncaged. All information correct at the time of archiving - November 2012.