Tuesday, May 03, 2005


UPDATE: Wednesday, May 4, 2005 - 7:06 pm

When reading over this post today, I found that I had written about "trans-Gender", not, correctly, "trans-SPECIES" transplants. I can't believe that I made that mistake - apparently I was semi-awake at the time.

I found this post on Right Wing Nut House.
In January, an informal ethics committee at Stanford University endorsed a proposal to create mice with brains nearly completely made of human brain cells. Stem cell scientist Irving Weissman said his experiment could provide unparalleled insight into how the human brain develops and how degenerative brain diseases like Parkinson’s progress.

Stanford law professor Hank Greely, who chaired the ethics committee, said the board was satisfied that the size and shape of the mouse brain would prevent the human cells from creating any traits of humanity. Just in case, Greely said, the committee recommended closely monitoring the mice’s behavior and immediately killing any that display human-like behavior.

Several years ago, I read a science fiction book by Robin Cook - Chromosome 6. It dealt with the modification of a near-relative of the human species - the Bonobo primate. Scientists tinkered with the body DNA of the Bonobo to enable it to harbor tissue-matching organs for rich donors. When the organ was needed for transplant, the Bonobo would be harvested. The main problem, from the researchers point of view, is that, unintended, the Bonobo began to display characteristics of evolving intelligence, and resisting their dreary fate.

It was interesting, but seemed so unlikely - how could you get what has been termed "trans-gender" organ donations past the ethics committees?

That's not too difficult, it seems.

I've been long harboring some reservations about the way we handle many medical issues. The Terry Schiavo case brought some of those reservations to the surface. My dad, long ago, asked that we NOT donate any of his organs after death. (The issue was moot, as he died of systemic cancer.) His concern was that doctors would look at dying patients as potential donors, and fail to provide adequate care to the patients.

At the time, I thought he was being more than a little old-fashioned and paranoid.

No longer - he seems, in retrospect, to have been remarkably prescient.

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