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Xenotransplantation – Round One Dialogue Complete

Media Advisory
Friday, April 15, 2005

Xenotransplantation – Animal to Human Transplantation
Round One of Dialogue Complete

Consideration of xenotransplantation – animal-to-human transplantation - has sparked significant public interest says Toi te Taiao: the Bioethics Council which has just successfully completed the first round of public dialogue meetings in Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

“Bioethics can be complex and difficult, but people have really got their heads around this one and it is producing active participation and debate,” says Chris Nichol, who has facilitated a number of the dialogue events.

“No single issue dominated the dialogue events, different issues were emphasised in different regions. The Wellington dialogue focused, amongst other topics, on the regulatory framework of xenotransplantation, while Christchurch concentrated on animal welfare, humanness and alternative remedies to xenotransplantation. In Auckland, participants didn’t agree on the status of animals. Some believed there wasn’t enough dialogue discussion in regards to animal welfare, and want to raise it again at the reconvened event in a fortnight.”

“Xenotourism has come in for discussion. This relates to people entering New Zealand having undertaken xenotransplantation procedures offshore which are not approved here. The concern is the potential risk to public health.

“The hui at the Kohanga reo in Auckland saw a focus on cultural issues, in particular, questions surrounding the evolution of tikanga, as well as discussions around the other key themes; animal welfare, human need and religious issues,” says Nichol.

This marks the mid point of public discussion on xenotransplantation. All those who attended the first dialogue meetings will be called back for a second meeting. They will receive feedback from other meetings and have an opportunity to further discuss the subject after mulling it over with family, friends and colleagues. The fact that many participants expressed a need to revisit a topic area reinforces the very reason for having reconvened meetings.

Since the Council released its xenotransplantation discussion paper in February, public interest in xenotransplantation and the work of the Council has been higher than ever. There has been strong participation in the online forum, with submissions and the dialogue event registrations.

“Participation is the key to successful dialogue,” says Nichol

“The first set of dialogue events has seen good attendance with participants from a variety of cultural, spiritual and ethical viewpoints and different areas of New Zealand society. One group, for example, consisted of a number of Maori, a representative for the Maori Women's Welfare League, two farmers, an advocate for Save Animals From Exploitation and a representative from the Catholic Church, to name a few. It made for an interesting discussion. All had different opinions and seldom agreed, however, all were interested in what the other had to say. There was a genuine desire to understand the different perspectives. This is what dialogue is all about; setting a safe environment for such diverse views to be discussed, respected and acknowledged,” says Nichol.

“Besides the diverse range of participants, the evaluation process indicates that people are leaving with a richer understanding of the subject and are valuing being exposed to a range of different views.”

Martin Wilkinson, chair of the Bioethics Council’s xenotransplantation working group says, “The success of the process to date reinforces the fact that the dialogue method is one of the most effective ways to help the Council formulate recommendations to Government. The feedback through dialogue discussions is relevant, well thought through and gives a good understanding of the broad views held by New Zealanders.”

In addition to the dialogue events in the main centres, West Coasters have a unique opportunity in early May when the Bioethics Council, in partnership with the local Tai Poutini Polytechnic and WestREAP, holds a facilitated multi-site dialogue on xenotransplantation, supported by web and teleconference technology.

With people meeting at five out-post sites, this is the first, and only, multi-site dialogue being undertaken by the Council on xenotransplantation and was initiated by the local community.

The Council will produce a report to Government on xenotransplantation in August.

For more information visit www.bioethics.org.nz

ENDS

Dialogue Information:

New Zealanders can have their say about xenotransplantation by becoming involved in one or more of the following activities which will be taking place between March and May 2005:

- Visit the website for background information and links to more detailed research: www.bioethics.org.nz
- Join the online discussion forum at www.bioethics.org.nz/dialogue/forum/
- Attend a dialogue event. Dialogue seeks to build understanding, rather than persuading people to adopt a position. The dialogue events provide participants with a non-threatening ‘space’ to discuss and debate the issues and examine their own deeply held convictions without fear of person attack. Please register your interest by email xeno@bioethics.org.nz.
- Make a submission by mail, email or online (there is a submission form on our website).
- Get together with whanau, friends or workmates and have a discussion. We want people thinking and talking about these topics, even if you do not end up writing anything down. Our website has links to ideas on running dialogue groups.

ENDS

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