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Greens To Support Ban On Xenotransplantion Trials

13 March 2002

The Green Party has decided to support a Government proposal to halt xenotransplantation trials in New Zealand for the next two years, including a proposed Diatranz trial to implant pig cells in diabetics.

Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said after carefully listening to and weighing up the evidence presented at select committee, she had decided the risk to the public was real enough to justify putting trials on hold.

"It is a very difficult ethical and scientific decision to weigh up the possible benefits to individual diabetes sufferers against the possible risk to the whole population.

"What it came down to for me is that you can't justify putting the health of the whole country at risk for the sake of some individuals, unless that risk is zero or very very close to it."

Ms Fitzsimons said after hearing Diatranz's evidence that pig retroviruses could not survive inside the human body, she had considered supporting their trials going ahead here.

"However other scientific evidence given to the committee, by submitters and by the Ministry of Health, challenged that evidence. I am now convinced that experimental evidence shows in some cases pig retroviruses have survived for long periods inside humans.

"It was also highly significant that the International Xenotransplantation Association, which exists to advance xenotransplantation, has written to the Minister of Health expressing concern about the risks of Diatranz's proposed human trials."

Ms Fitzsimons said she would only support a clause giving the Minister of Health the power to over-ride the ban if the legislation is changed to require a process of public submissions and hearings first.

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