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Invited Critique
April 2008

Porcine and Bovine Surgical Products: Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu Perspectives—Invited Critique

Arch Surg. 2008;143(4):370. doi:10.1001/archsurg.143.4.370

This is a thought-provoking and interesting study that touches a relevant area affecting all medical and surgical practitioners. Much like the proscription by Jehovah's Witnesses about blood transfusions, the question is asked, “Do these 3 faiths have the same concerns about the medical use of animal products given their doctrines that prohibit the dietary use of these same products?” The authors correctly admonish sensitivity to other faiths, particularly to patients' religious views regarding the use of animal products in their medical care. While one might be critical of the authors for the small sampling of religious authorities contacted regarding the doctrinal views of the respective faiths, the article still has relevance for our time. Also complicating the issue is the fact that there is no central authority among the 3 faiths studied in this circumstance. It is possible that there may be regional or local variation in interpretation of the dietary laws. A larger sampling of religious authorities might have instilled more confidence in the results of the study. Nevertheless, this study is timely and relevant with the virtual explosion of animal products in current use in the United States. They include porcine valves, cadaver tendons, human cadaveric dermis, porcine dermis, corneal transplants, and others. It may be tempting for the scientist and practitioner to question proscription of porcine products now that the dietary risks associated with well-cooked pork are no greater than those associated with other animal meats used for consumption or to question prohibition of bovine products, particularly when they are sterilized and decellularized. However, such scientific musings will not overcome millennia of religious practices that are a part of the theology of the groups that are studied in this report. As the authors point out, with the Internet, satellite broadcast, transportation, and increasing diversity in our society, it is more important than ever to be sensitive to other cultures and other traditions. It is critical that surgeons communicate openly and frankly with their patients if they plan to use animal products that might violate religious laws. This work is relevant and makes the reader think about the responsibility we all have to be honest with our patients as we try to render the highest quality medical care possible.

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