Thoracic Pork: Using Jurassic Park to develop examples of virtues-based research ethics for xenotransplantation
Friday, October 13, 2023
5:00 PM – 6:15 PM ET
Location: Dover C (Third Floor)
During the climax of Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Jurassic Park, a velociraptor stalks two children in the visitor center. The predator’s shadow passes over a mural, briefly disappearing as it aligns with a painted raptor. Art mirrors life, but life is a lot scarier.
With award-winning effects, the film revels in showing dinosaurs to its audience, just as eccentric businessman John Hammond relishes the thought of sharing his creations. But even as Jurassic Park delights in dinosaurs and capitalizes on their spectacle, it tells a cautionary tale about greed, hubris, and naivete in the pursuit of transformative science. These lessons from art have applications in life: I use the popular storytelling in Jurassic Park to develop new areas of ethical inquiry into experimental xenotransplantation.
The complexity and novelty of xenotransplantation is unprecedented. Risks for treatment failure, treatment-related harm, and negative externalities from the intimate to the ecological scale are unknown and may exceed levels accepted in precedent human trial models. Not only research leaders, but every team member who might participate in patient selection, evaluation, or treatment, needs a useful ethical point of reference for understanding their involvement.
The shadow of Jurassic Park overlaps with the reality of xenotransplantation: high-risk, high-reward science; genetically modified animals; aspirations toward “sterility;” and fraught interactions between funders, regulators, researchers, workers, and consultants. Characters in the movie navigate these challenges, each bringing unique attributes and values. By examining these characters, I develop examples of virtuous traits and habits that would support ethical participation in xenotransplant research.