Research Alert

The latest achievements in the field of pancreas transplantation and stem cell therapy require an effort by the scientific community to clarify the ethical implications of pioneering treatments, often characterized by high complexity from a surgical point of view, due to transplantation of multiple organs at the same time or at different times, and from an immunological point of view for stem cell therapy. The fundamental value in the field of organ transplants is, of course, a solidarity principle, namely that of protecting the health and life of people for whom transplantation is a condition of functional recovery, or even of survival. The nature of this value is that of a concept to which the legal discipline of transplants entrusts its own ethical dignity and for which it has ensured a constitutional recognition in different systems. The general principle of respect for human life, both of the donor and of the recipient, evokes the need not to put oneself and one’s neighbor in dangerous conditions. The present ethical reflection aims to find a balance between the latest therapeutic advances and several concepts including the idea of the person, the respect due to the dead, the voluntary nature of the donation and the consent to the same, the gratuitousness of the donation, the scientific progress and the development of surgical techniques, and the policies of health promotion.

Key Words: Pancreas transplantation, Multi-organ transplants, Stem cell therapy, Ethical principles, Donor, Recipient


Core Tip: Recent research in pancreatic transplantation is involving many branches of medicine. The objective is represented by the achievement of euglycemia and the anatomo-functional restoration of the β-cells, avoiding exogenous insulin administration. Transplantation of the pancreas or pancreatic islets (eventually associated with renal transplantation) and stem cell therapy constitute the new frontiers in this field. However, such rapid scientific growth must be followed by an extensive discussion on the ethical implications to make experimental and clinical practices adequate and sustainable.

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