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Canadian Public Wants Moratorium on Clinical Trials
As in the United States, Canadian researchers are exploring the use of pigs as sources of organs for very ill patients, particularly those in need of hearts and kidneys. But following an extensive public information campaign, more than half the Canadians who had received information from experts on xenotransplantation recommended that clinical trials be banned until scientists could "shed more light on the risks to public health from the use of animal cells, tissues and organs for human transplants."
The Canadian public is concerned that the risks of xenotransplantation have not been adequately explored, according to Edna Einsiedel, a professor of communication studies at the University of Calgary who took part in a panel at the AAAS Annual Meeting entitled, "Animal Parts for Humans? Xenotransplantation Science, Ethics, Policy and Publics." She noted that members of the public were much more likely to oppose clinical trials after they had been fully informed about the issue.
Surveys, Forums to Obtain Publicís View
In a statement distributed at the Annual Meeting, Einsiedel recounted the extensive effort to inform members of the public and to obtain their opinions on xenotransplantation, undertaken at the behest of the Canadian Public Health Association. It consisted of a national public opinion survey; a mail-in survey of stakeholders; a questionnaire that was posted to a web site; and a series of six public forums that were held across the country.
"Among those in favor of proceeding (with clinical trials), it was recommended that stringent and transparent legislation and regulations covering all aspects of clinical trials should be in place," Einsiedel wrote. "These would include procedures to ensure informed consent, stringent research protocols, an accountability structure, and multidisciplinary ethics committee."
Einsiedel added that the "citizen jury" thought there should be a public education campaign about xenotransplantation. They were concerned also about the cost of xenotransplantation: "...there was little support for redirecting scarce health dollars to this procedure to the detriment of exploring other alternatives to the organ shortage."
-- Coimbra Sirica