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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Brent W. Miller, MD (Washington University School of Medicine)
Description: The authors of this book highlight the need, history, problems, and ethics of xenotransplantation in an easy-to-read 250 page hardcover book.
Purpose: They intend to stimulate discussion among transplant physicians and medical ethicists regarding xenotransplantation from pigs to humans.
Audience: Laypersons with some medical knowledge and physicians interested in an overview of the history and current state of xenotransplantation comprise the main audience for this book.
Features: The book is divided into several short chapters. Each chapter is headed by an apt quotation and the first several paragraphs are often descriptions of real-life" situations either in the present or future. Xenotransplantation has become a bigger yet more distinct issue; thus, this book is needed. Still, this book will prove frustrating to many readers because the authors try too hard. There are simply too many people interested in xenotransplantation — at least one dialysis patient or family member questions me each week — to produce a product fur all.
Assessment: The succinct and well-written sections of the history of xenotransplantation and the current barriers to successful xenotransplantation satisfy the most. Other parts of the book quickly get repetitive such as the constant reminder of the need for organs, the use of the pig, and the optimistic portrayals of the future surgeon. Some parts of the book are simply annoying: the lack of annotation, the occasional self-congratulatory tone, and the switch from a lay perspective to a medical perspective in mid-chapter. Ironic moments occur also. The ethics of using pigs is discussed exhaustively, yet I live in a state that raises hogs in massive artificial surroundings and I can walk ten blocks from where I sit and buy any part of a pig, cow, or sheep — no questions asked. The authors place the transplant surgeon on a pedestal, but their evidence actually suggests that although the first 50 years of transplantation belonged to the surgeon, the immunologist has ruled the field the last 20, and the molecular biologist and geneticist hold the keys for the next ten. Despite these shortcomings, I look forward to a second edition as the field advances.