Human Organs Grown in Pigs

An incredible coincidence again, that our section 2 topic in Year 10 is about to be medical ethics and organ transplants. Freaky!


This was some amazing news on Monday: that human organs are going to be grown inside pigs to be used later as organ transplants. Wow!

The BBC have a short video clip to explain how human stem cells have been inserted into pig embryos to produce human-pig embryos, called chimeras. This research has been going on in the US to attempt to overcome the worldwide shortage of organs for donation.

The Guardian also reports on this story, explaining that from the outside they will look like normal pigs but one organ inside it will actually be human. There are heaps of ethical issues with this. For example what happens if the brain is human inside a pig’s body? Obviously from an RE perspective there are questions about meddling with nature and God’s creation, or whether if God gave us this intelligence and free will it is actually acceptable?



Quick heart warming transplant story

A two year old boy is currently recovering in intensive care after receiving a heart transplant. He had been living with a mechanical heart for a whole year; longer than any other known child patient in the UK.

His parents, Candace and Adrian, from Hampshire, have published a thank you note to the anonymous donor. “Thank you, little angel. In their darkest hour, as you prepared to take your last breath, your family selflessly thought of others,” they wrote, adding: “Thank you will never be enough. Your family has given our family hope. A chance of a future. A chance of life itself.”


Transplant Surgery


What is a transplant? It’s a surgical operation to introduce organ or tissue from one person (the donor) to another (the recipient). It may also refer to the transfer of tissues from one part of a person’s body to another part of the same person’s body.

Way back in 1908 Alexis Carrel came up with a way of transplanting organs but most of the organs he transplanted from one animal to another failed, as organs were eventually rejected. From the 1950s onwards organ transplants gradually became more successful with the development of drugs (e.g. cortisone) to help organs be accepted in the recipient’s body. The first successful heart transplant happened in 1967. For 18 days the patient Louis lived with the heart of a 25 year old woman beating inside him. Nowadays this would be seen as a failure, but back then this was a huge breakthrough. By 1984 heart transplants had become common place around the world and even children were having heart transplants.

In the second half of the 1900s development has continued with the options for transplant surgery growing. Artificial hearts have been with us since the 1950s. Since the late 1970s it has been possible to offer some deaf people the chance to hear with the aid of cochlear implants. In 1981 the first successful heart-lung transplant was performed in Stanford.



Despite this, replacement surgery remains a highly technical and very specialised profession. Its success also depends on the availability of suitable organ donations, and in many places in the world there are not enough to meet the demand. The NHS website explains which organs people can donate  as well as what the main faiths teach about organ donation.

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This can raise serious ethical questions and, some fear, lead to the body being treated as a commodity.


There is much debate within Islam on whether organ donation is halal or haram.

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This has lead to a shortage of organs for Muslims with them having to wait on average an extra year for an organ compared to non-Muslims. The reason for this is that of the three million Muslims in Britain most have a South Asian ethnic background: so if less Muslims of this ethnic background donate organs there’ll be less organs which match people of that ethnic background who need them. Hospitals have had to urge Muslims to donate because the shortage of organs is so severe.

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Donating organs is the Christian thing to do

The Bishop of Carlisle has said that blood and organ donation should be part of the “sacrificial offering” Christians are called on to make.

“That ‘sacrificial offering’ is usually associated with time, money and gifts. But it applies just as much to the blood that flows in our veins and the organs that are such an intrinsic part of our bodies,” the Bishop says.

These comments comes from a three day meeting of Church of England bishops who will be debating blood and organ donation, as well as the ongoing subject of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

The article about the Church debating whether Christians should be encouraged to donate organs also refers to a Christian organisation called Flesh and Blood which campaigns for Christian churches to promote organ and blood donation.

Mother meets man with son’s heart

A mother whose son died six years ago saw her wish come true when she met the man his donor heart saved in a “completely coincidental” moment. In the “one-off situation” Freda Carter told the Daily Telegraph that she came across her son’s anonymous transplant recipient at a memorial service and became “hysterical” when she realised who he was.


Mrs Carter and her husband John lost their son, also John, to a brain tumour when he was 33, and gave permission for some of his organs, including his heart,to be donated. All they were given was the recipient’s first name, Scott, and when Mrs Carter saw a Scott listed to sing at a memorial service for organ donors last November, she said her maternal instinct kicked in and she knew it was him.

“When I sat down and and turned the page on the order of service and saw his name there, a strange feeling came over me,” the 66-year-old from Sunderland told the newspaper.

“I knew he was the recipient of John’s heart.

“It was irrational as Scott is a common name and he could have been anywhere in the country. I was completely hysterical. I couldn’t breathe and I started making a massive scene. I think it must have been maternal instinct.”

Scott Rutherford, who was 14 when he underwent the transplant, said he was “eternally grateful ” for the donation, and allowed Mrs Carter to feel her son’s beating heart. Daughter Julie Carter, 43, said it had always been her mother’s wish before she died to meet the boy who had received the heart. She told the Sunderland Echo: “The boy wanted to say thanks to us and it was very emotional for all involved.

“One of my mam’s dying wishes was to touch John’s heart and she put her hands on the lad’s chest to feel it.”

Lynn Holt, heart and lung transplant co-ordinator at Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, said the situation was very unusual.

“This case is a one-off situation because it was completely coincidental as Scott was a guest speaker at a service where John’s family were attending,” she told the Daily Telegraph.

“I know that Scott was so happy that he got to meet the family, even if it was such an unusual situation.”

Mr Rutherford, 20, now works as an actor and said: “I am unbelievably thankful to John and his family for everything that they have done for me. The difference in my health is amazing. My heartbeat is so strong that it keeps me awake at night.”

Three People a Day Still Die from a Shortage of Donors

Statistics today reveal that organ transplants are on the rise but still large numbers of people are dying in Britain because of a shortage of organ donors. The BBC report that family refusal is one of the biggest barriers; when families of recently deceased person refuse to let their organs be donated even if the dead person has agreed themselves to organ donation.

A year ago the BBC broadcast a documentary all about how the organs of one donor were distributed to save the lives of others:


Sister finally allowed to donate her kidney

Initially the Home Office refused to allow entry into the UK of a Jamaican woman who wanted to donate her kidney to her brother, who is a British resident. They had concerns she would not return to Jamaica after the operation. They’ve changed their minds though, after the woman pointed out that with seven children and a hairdressing business back home, she really wasn’t going to hang around in the UK.

Saying that she was doing this for love of her brother it reminds us that some people believe that organ transplants are a loving act which extends the sanctity of life, whereas others believe our lives are planned by God and we shouldn’t meddle with God’s temple (our bodies).