Because the number of human organs available for transplantation cannot respond to the very great demand, alternative solutions are being studied including the transplantation of organs originating from animals (xenotransplantation). However, this latter solution is still experimental and many technical problems remain.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, having considered the risks to public health which xenotransplantation could involve and, in particular, to the transmission of viruses present in the animal source to the recipient patient and his or her close contacts, stated that it was in favour of a moratorium on the clinical applications of xenotransplantation and asked the Committee of Ministers to initiate a study relating to the different aspects of the relevant issues ( Recommendation 1399 (1999) on xenotransplantation ).

Without taking a stance on the proposition of a moratorium, the Committee of Ministers established a Working Party under the bilateral authority of the Steering Committee on Bioethics (CDBI) and the European Health Committee (CDSP). Chaired by Mr. Bart Wijnberg (The Netherlands), the Working Party has drafted an interim report on "The State of the Art in the field of Xenotransplantation" which is available in English.

The Working Party has also finalised draft guidelines on xenotransplantation which were approved by the Steering Committee on Bioethics (CDBI) and the European Health Committee (CDSP) in June 2002. Recommendation Rec (2003)10 on xenotransplantation was adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 19 June 2003.