The Issues and Controversy Aroused

 The Ethical Issues

    Ever since the first chimera was created, scientists and civilians alike have voiced their opinions on whether or not a two-species hybrid is an ethical and moral practice.  As the only sentient creatures on the Earth (that we know of), humans take it upon themselves to try to figure out the rights and wrongs of life, and how other creatures of this world should be treated.  However, it is human nature to disagree on subjects, and the disagreement over human-animal chimeras and the use of stem cells has gone on for decades.

The Opposition

    Biotechnology activist Jeremy Rifkin believes animals have the right to exist without being disturbed or crossed with another species, and he is quite opposed to chimeric experimentation. "'There are other ways to advance medicine and human health besides going out into the strange, brave new world of chimeric animals,' Rifkin stated when asked his view on the progress of chimeric animals. 'One doesn't have to be religious or into animal rights to think this doesn't make sense,' he continued. 'It's the scientists who want to do this. They've now gone over the edge into the pathological domain,'" (Citation 10).

Guarded Acquiescence

    Others believe that human-animal chimeras are not ethical, but they also feel that chimeric research should not necessarily be stopped. Canada's Stem Cell Oversight Committee ensures research protocols are strictly followed.  One member, Cynthia Cohen, is ambivalent about the whole matter.  While she believes human-animal chimeric research "would deny that there is something distinctive and valuable about human beings that ought to be honored and protected," she does not think prohibiting it outright is the answer either.  She said that such a ban should be thoroughly thought out before being enforced because such experimentation could help humans understand what goes on during the growth of an embryo. (Citation 10)

    William Cheshire is also cautious when it comes to chimeras.  This Mayo Clinic neurology professor asserts that  "This is unexplored biologic territory.... Whatever moral threshold of human neural development we might choose to set as the limit for such an experiment, there would be a considerable risk of exceeding that limit before it could be recognized."  Cheshire's experience with chimeras comes from his own research in which he combined human and mouse cells.  While he believed that kind of research was moral, he is opposed to experiements that harm viable human embryos or those that create a new species out of two existing ones. (Citation 10)

Those For It

    Just as there are those strongly opposed to human-animal chimeric experimentation, there are those who who are strongly for it.  "Irv Weissman, director of Stanford University's Institute of Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine in California, is against a ban in the United States.  When asked to give his opinion on the subject, he said, 'Anybody who puts their own moral guidance in the way of this biomedical science, where they want to impose their will—not just be part of an argument—if that leads to a ban or moratorium..… they are stopping research that would save human lives." (Citation 10)

Biotechnology activist, Jeremy Rifkin, (Citation 5) and Director Irving Weissman. (Citation 4)


The Legal Issues

    When considering the pros and cons of chimeric research, one must also take into consideration the many legal issues that are attached to any kind of research.  Many courts globally have debated the issue of banning human-animal chimeric experiments.  The trouble is, no one knows where to draw the line.

    "Twenty-five years ago, in Diamond v. Chakrabarty, a US scientist Ananda Chakrabarty, obtained the first patent on a living organism, a genetically engineered bacterium that consumes oil spills. The patent office originally denied the application, believing it could not patent living organisms. The case landed in the US Supreme Court, which held that 'anything under the sun made by man' could be patented as long as it is 'new, non-obvious, and useful.' Since then, more than 436 transgenic or bioengineered animals have been patented. Many say the 1980 ruling led to the birth of biotechnology in the United States. However, the US law clearly prohibits the patenting of people," (Citation 13).  The answer to the question of whether or not future patents will be allowed on human-animal chimeras is still a bit fuzzy. Anything found in nature is not patentable subject matter. Each patent application is reviewed on its own merits. (Citation 13) 

    Global controversy continues to rage, as different countries create new laws, some allowing chimeric experimentation, and others prohibiting it.  Canada banned chimeras in 2004 with the Assisted Human Reproduction Act.  It specifically, "prohibited transferring a nonhuman cell into a human embryo and putting human cells into a nonhuman embryo," (Citation 10) On May 17, 2007, the British govenrment partially lifted a ban that had been put on experiments with animal-human embryos.  Once the ban was lifted, scientists were able to apply for permission to create the "chimera" embryos, which they all agree are essential for further research into the cures of diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. (Citation 9)