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Organ transplants

I am always amazed by the will our patients have to survive, almost at any cost. So said David White a director of Imutran, the company involved in developing genetically modified pigs for use as an organ supply in xenotransplants (animal to human transplants). I was expressing my doubt about ever wanting to undergo an organ transplant if faced with the possibility. But it has to be admitted, that unconscious urge we call the 'survival instinct' must run very deep, for instance in crowd disasters when people clamber to safety over the dying. Just as physicists have wondered whether human life would exist if just one of the constants of physics were altered by a tiny amount, likewise might we wonder whether it would exist if the desire for life were diminished even slightly. Given this instinct, can any of us predict what we might do if offered an organ transplant? Perhaps not, but we can make ourselves aware of what might be involved so that any future decision has the chance of being informed by moral intuition rather than by instinct. To do this as freely as possible would seem to require thinking over the matter sooner rather than later when our consciousness and thus our freedom are partially compromised by illness and pain.

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