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Vatican gives go ahead to use animal organs to save human lives

Concerned about the shortage of human organs for transplants, the Vatican is encouraging research into the use of animal organs to save people's lives.

The Vatican released a position paper on Wednesday that urged researchers to use caution as they strive to see if animal-to-human transplants will become a reliable method of treatment.

The paper was issued after consultations with surgeons, transplant experts, immunologists, geneticists and veterinarians, as well as experts on anthropology, morality and ethics.

The Vatican said it prepared the document in response to all those "who have expressed doubts about the ethics of animal-to-human transplants" because of the uncertainty of success and the high cost of research, which could be spent on other prospects for treatment.

"In the face of such doubts, it's opportune to recall that, even while taking into consideration the necessary cost-benefits equation, the huge use of health resources in this case is justified by the urgent necessity to try to save the lives of so many patients who otherwise wouldn't have any chance at survival," the Vatican said.

The document, prepared by the Pontifical Academy for Life, advised using the smallest possible number of patients in experiments.