For many patients a tissue heart valve that does not rely on blood monitoring and the use of blood thinners can enable a more active lifestyle.
However, as tissue values are harvested from porcine or, more commonly, bovine tissue, patients with strong beliefs about the use of animal products make have certain ethical concerns.
So we asked the question: what do vegans think about tissue heart valves?
Veganism is increasing in popularity: according to statistics, the number of vegans in Great Britain quadrupled between 2014 and 2019, increasing to an estimated 600,000 people. Based on current trends, it’s predicted that the number of vegans in the UK could continue to rise sharply, with vegans and vegetarians expected to make up around a quarter of the population by 2025.
The obvious place to start around the ethics of the tissue versus mechanical valve dilemma was the UK’s Vegan Society, which was able to set out its position very clearly.
Spokesperson Matt Turner told us:
“This will be a difficult decision for any vegan. However, our definition of vegan is to avoid the exploitation of animals as far as is possible and practicable.
If patients are concerned about the potential side effects of warfarin, it is the choice of the individual vegan whether to opt for a tissue heart valve or not.
As far as we are concerned, whatever choice a patient makes, they are doing what is possible and practical within their own unique medical circumstances. This is a decision which should always be respected.
It is also worth noting that there is no entirely vegan solution, as all medications have been tested on animals at some point.
If a vegan patient opts for a mechanical valve, we would never recommend that they stop taking the warfarin that is prescribed to them. Again, it is all about what is possible and practicable.
We will always welcome the development of animal-free alternatives – particularly when it comes to research and testing medication.”
So, even with a mechanical valve, the subsequent dependence on warfarin means that there is no heart valve replacement that has zero impact on animals.
For many vegans, the trade-off between achieving human welfare (rather than pleasure or convenience) through animal products and animal rights is one they could possibly come to terms with when making a potentially life-or-death decision, as this conversation about heart valves on the Philosophical Vegan shows.
Any choice of heart valve will be based on personal views and, of course, on what valve is most suitable for the patient and their lifestyle.
Medical information. This is provided for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for advice by a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. Patients should not use the information on the Active Patients website for diagnosing a health or fitness problem or disease. Patients should always consult with a doctor or other health professional for medical advice or information about diagnosis and treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice because of something you have read on Active Patients.