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Animal Tissue Transplants OK

VATICAN CITY (CNS): The Vatican has given broad ethical clearance to research in transplanting animal tissues into humans but has asked scientists to use ‘maximum caution’ because of unknown risks of passing animal diseases into human populations.

In a document released on September 26, the Pontifical Academy for Life recommended potentially quarantining early human recipients of animal organs and prohibiting them from sexual intercourse until they are determined to present no risk of contagion.

Addressing another issue, the academy ruled out transplants of human testicles and ovaries, which, it said, like human brains were organs inseparably tied to a person’s identity.

Presented only in Italian at a Vatican press conference, the 11,000-word document was the fruit of a Vatican working group made up of 23 Church ethicists and international experts in animal organ transplants, known as xenotransplants.

The text offers a technical overview of the state of xenotransplant research, which is still in early stages, and a detailed analysis of potential ethical issues.

The document said one of the fundamental ethical questions regarding xenotransplants was potential health risks, particularly in the passage of animal diseases into humans.

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