I have seen the fu­ture and it looks porcine

Heart Mak­ers: The Fu­ture of Trans­plant Medicine 8.30pm, SBS

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

IT’S clear from the open­ing frames of this Ger­man doc­u­men­tary that we’re talk­ing about the fu­ture: a leggy model wear­ing some sort of PVC mac and an al­bino wig strips off for what we are told will be a ‘‘ 100 per cent re­li­able’’ elec­tronic health scan. We’re not told what year it is, but I hope it’s a long way off be­cause pa­tients have ap­par­ently be­come num­bers, doc­tors have be­come com­put­ers and, worst of all, we can all ex­pect to live to 120.

Many peo­ple would prob­a­bly perk up at the idea of liv­ing longer. Not Billy Con­nolly, who has com­plained that any ex­tra years of life al­ways come right at the end, when we are drib­bling in a nurs­ing home, not in the mid­dle, when we could be off club­bing, trav­el­ling and rid­ing mo­tor­bikes.

But if you fancy hang­ing on to this mor­tal coil for as long as pos­si­ble, you may find your­self a bit less thrilled by the prospect af­ter watch­ing this pro­gram. For one thing, it seems the ex­tra years will be bought by fill­ing us up with bits of pig. Yes, pig, be­cause xeno­trans­plan­ta­tion — us­ing an­i­mal parts in hu­mans — is con­sid­ered the only way to over­come the fact there are hun­dreds of thou­sands more peo­ple who need trans­plants of kid­neys or other or­gans than there are suit­able hu­man donors.

Ar­ti­fi­cial hearts just can’t do the job; the tech­nol­ogy has im­proved, but they are still about as el­e­gant as a mo­bile phone circa 1986, weigh a good kilo­gram more than the fac­to­ryin­stalled ver­sion and re­quire elec­tri­cal leads to be pok­ing per­ma­nently through one’s chest wall.

It’s all a long way from the op­ti­mism of the 1970s, soon af­ter the dis­cov­ery of the first ef­fec­tive im­muno- sup­pres­sive drug, ci­closporin, which made long- term sur­vival af­ter trans­plants fea­si­ble for the first time by pre­vent­ing the body re­ject­ing trans­planted ma­te­rial.

En­ter the pig, which pro­duces or­gans sim­i­lar enough in shape and size to make them us­able in peo­ple. Un­like apes, pigs have the ad­di­tional ad­van­tages that they are avail­able in large num­bers and their role in the food chain means it’s un­likely to cause a riot when we start farm­ing them for spare parts.

There is a fas­ci­nat­ing story to be told about the past and fu­ture of trans­plant medicine. Un­for­tu­nately, this stodgy doc­u­men­tary does a poor job of telling it.

The cam­er­a­work is static; there are too many talk­ing heads; phrases in the nar­ra­tion re­peat­edly re­mind you of a talk­ing Ger­man phrase­book; and the script fails to bring the topic alive by cre­at­ing an en­gag­ing nar­ra­tive thread, re­sort­ing too of­ten in­stead to reel­ing off sta­tis­tics.

Adam Cress­well

Have a heart: Pig or­gans are likely to be har­vested for hu­mans

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.