Foetal tissue transplantation, the ethics, the law and the born alive rule in Canada

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Maharaj, Indra L.
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The advent of antibiotics revolutionized infection management regimes. However, even penicillin was treated with understandable scepticism. Today, its use is common. Foetal tissue transplantation may be the "penicillin" of Parkinson's Disease reatment. It can be transplanted into the recipient and produce the missing chemicals that cause the symptoms. It seems like a clear "go forward" proposition but the fact that foetuses are the tissue source has created social resistance. The foetus is unlike any other human tissue. If separated from the pregnant woman prior to viability, it cannot survive. However, if left alone, it has the potential to develop into an independent and unique human being. Bearing this in mind, how can abortion and transplantation be justified? In true Canadian style, a balance has been reached. First trimester abortions can be obtained electively. Only first and early second trimester foetal tissue is transplantable. I believe that transplantation is not dependent upon the morality of abortion because abortion and suitable tissue both exist. In this thesis, I discuss the various ethical arguments and the legal issues raised by this technology. To put it all into perspective, I review the born alive rule in depth and examine its influence in the law generally. After conducting the foregoing analysis, I support the use of first trimester electively aborted foetal tissue for therapeutic transplantation, with appropriate controls to ensure that the pregnant woman is a willing participant with full knowledge of the ultimate of her foetal tissue.