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December 20, 1985

Ethical Issues Raised by Research Involving Xenografts

Author Affiliations

From The Hastings Center, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

JAMA. 1985;254(23):3339-3343. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360230071026

ON OCT 26, 1984, Dr Leonard Bailey and his associates at the Loma Linda University Medical Center in California implanted a heart from a 7-month-old baboon in a newborn human infant. The child, known publicly as Baby Fae, was afflicted with a fatal congenital abnormality of the heart known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome.1

The implant created an enormous controversy both within the medical community and among lay observers of the experiment. The questions it raised and continues to raise concern the competency of the child's mother to give informed consent to the procedure, the morality of killing an animal in order to attempt to save the life of a child, the adequacy of the scientific basis for undertaking this type of transplant in a young child, the competency of the medical team and medical center to undertake the experiment, the adequacy of existing review mechanisms governing human experimentation