Live blog Donor Animal Dialogue – NEMO Kennislink

Sun 7 November, 4:00 PM

The very last word goes to medical ethicist Eline Bunnik of Erasmus MC: “I found it very impressive what was said online by the woman who needed an organ, but would refuse an organ from an animal.” According to Bunnik, the use of donor animals should be possible if we can save human lives with them, provided we pay sufficient attention to the welfare of the pigs. Read an interview with Bunnik on NEMO Kennislink.

Sun 7 November, 3:55 PM

Who has started to think differently about this subject?” Lucas De Man asks the audience. Almost everyone raises a hand. To conclude, organizer Eef Grob reads a thought experiment that Brenda put in the chat of the livestream: suppose that there are very intelligent aliens coming to Earth, who are going to lock us up and use us to provide donor organs, if we don’t want that, then we shouldn’t want this either.

“Can we vote on this issue?” asks someone from the audience. But moderator Lucas De Man is inexorable: we really have to finish now. We will have to continue the discussion at the bar (and for the people at home: let us hear your thoughts in the comments below this article or via Twitter #donordier).

Sun 7 November, 3:50 PM

A woman in the audience: “Maybe this is swearing in church, but the big question is: can we die? Our life is our life, because we die within a time frame we can comprehend.” Lucas De Man asks the audience: who doesn’t mind dying? Half of the visitors raise a hand.

Through the chat, Sophie says: “We’re talking about dying, but we also need to talk about preventing suffering.” Animal ethicist Eline Bunnik responds: “A pig that grows up in a sterile environment does not necessarily have to suffer. I’m not that concerned about the animal’s welfare.”

“I have serious doubts about that,” says Bernice Bovenkerk. “A pig that is given space just rolls in the mud. I doubt we’re going to keep those animals in some sort of pig paradise.”

Sun 7 November, 3:45 PM

“I’ve worked with kidney patients and I see the need to come up with a solution as soon as possible,” said one in the audience. Kidney patient Nicole is present via livestream. She underwent a kidney transplant. She says that she does not necessarily want to survive if an animal has to be killed. If no human donor had been available, she would not have opted for a pig organ.

Not all kidney patients think the same about this. In an earlier conversation that NEMO Kennislink had with seven kidney patients, a woman said that she would have preferred a pig’s kidney (now she suffered from nightmares about her deceased donor). Read a report of this special conversation:

Sun 7 November, 3:40 PM

A visitor wants to know about alternatives. We make cultured meat, can’t we grow organs? Veterinary medicine student Barbara (also in the audience) says that research is already being done into cultured organs.

Transplant surgeon Ian Alwayn adds: “Culturing organs for transplant organs is happening.” Organoids are mini-organs grown in the lab. But that technology is really still in its infancy, says Alwayn. “I think it will take a very long time before that becomes a reality.”

Animal ethicist Bernice Bovenkerk fears it will take even longer if growing organs in animals is allowed. If we ban that, the need to find alternatives is greater: “Necessity is the mother of invention.

Sun 7 November, 3:30 PM

“Who else thinks it is stealing?”, moderator Lucas De Man asks the audience. About half of people agree with the stealing-is-stealing view, the other half disagree. “I think the position that is being taken is very extreme,” says a woman from the audience. “All kinds of species in the world eat each other. A lion eats an impala. We don’t call that stealing.”

Sun 7 November, 3:25 PM

If we want to play God, we also have to act like a God and take responsibility, says a man from the audience: “We rob animals of their organs. Stealing is not allowed. But suppose we do allow it, because we are human beings, I’m afraid it won’t stop there. A hundred years ago there were more efficient steam engines. The result: we started using more steam engines. Often there is a solution to a problem, in the hope that the problem will diminish. But then it runs out of steam, just because it can. So we have to nip it in the bud now: stealing is stealing.”

Sun 7 November, 3:20 PM

We get to see a future scenario:

How does this scenario evoke in you?

Sun 7 November, 3:15 PM

After a short break we start with the dialogue led by Lucas De Man. The lights in the hall come on. Everyone can now participate: in the room, via the chat in the livestream or via Twitter #donordier.

Growing a human organ in a pig to solve our donor shortage is something of the future, but there is a chance that it will soon be possible. Do we want it too?

Sun 7 November, 3:00 PM

“I can imagine that you have received a lot of information to think about,” editor-in-chief Leon Heuts told the audience. We take a short break. After the break, our speakers will enter into a dialogue with the visitors.

Sun 7 November, 2:45 PM

According to animal ethicist Bernice Bovenkerk, the boundary between humans and animals is not that strict. “Animal ethicists question the idea that humans are superior to other animals,” says Bovenkerk. Traits such as intelligence, language, creativity and morality are not exclusively human. Dolphins give each other names and have each other pronounced in a conversation.

“Another problem is that not all people have these characteristics: babies, people with dementia. Still, we don’t think we should exclude these people from our moral community.”

“Animals have all kinds of properties that we don’t have,” says Bovenkerk. “We have taken human qualities as the standard for those who count morally.” Excluding animals from the moral community is, according to Bovenkerk, a form of discrimination, just like sexism or racism. We call that: specicism.

Sun 7 November, 2:40 PM

Sun 7 November, 2:35 PM

“I became a transplant surgeon because I get satisfaction out of making people better. Some of my patients die because they don’t get a donor organ in time,” says Ian Alwayn. That is why he is researching new possibilities to solve the donor shortage. One such option is the transplantation of organs from animals to humans.

“If we find this desirable, which animal would we choose?” Alwayn pauses for a moment. “Immunologically, a monkey would be an attractive option,” he says. “Yet scientists think that the pig is the most suitable organ donor for humans. That is more socially accepted, and pigs are already being consumed. Moreover, you can breed pigs quickly.”

Sun 7 November, 2:25 PM

Artist Lucas De Man opens the afternoon with a mini-lecture. He talks about adapting babies with CRISPR-Cas, artificial intelligence, and the most advanced retirement home in the world:

“Things are going really hard in various areas,” says De Man. “But the technology is not for everyone. People from rich countries will soon be able to cut Alzheimer’s from their DNA, someone else will never have that possibility.” The big question, he says, is: who is going to make these decisions? At the moment many choices are made by companies. “If we do nothing, we will inequality grow anyway. What we need is a practical, ethical dialogue.”

Sun 7 November, 2:10 PM

“The urgency of this dialogue became apparent just two weeks ago, when world news broke that doctors had successfully linked a pig kidney to a human brain-dead patient.” With these words, Leon Heuts, editor-in-chief of NEMO Kennislink, opens the Donor Animal Dialogue.

“The genetic modification of animals for organ transplantation to humans is getting closer. We think that you should enter into a dialogue with society about this. We will include the results in a report that will be presented to the House of Representatives next year.”

zo 7 november, 13:45, NEMO Science Museum

In a few minutes we will start with the Donor Animal Dialogue. The organization and speakers go through the latest technical details. At 14:00 we open the hall to the public.

Sun 7 November, 10:00 a.m.

In order to solve the shortage of donor organs, we may be able to grow human organs in animals in the future. What do you think of this? Join the conversation during the Donordier dialogue. This afternoon at 14:00 in Amsterdam or via livestream.

These people are on stage this afternoon:

You can still register for this event via this page. You can also follow the event via live stream.

Source: Kennislink by

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