Four clinical trials of porcine islet transplantation have been reported, and there are verbal reports that clinical trials on much larger scales are continuing in centers in China and Russia. The four reported trials are briefly reviewed and, in the light of the present status of experimental islet xenotransplantation, consideration is given to whether such trials are currently justified. The Ethics Committee of the International Xenotransplantation Association has (1) emphasized the need for encouraging studies in non-human primates before clinical trials should be undertaken, (2) mandatory monitoring for the transfer of porcine microorganisms, and (3) careful regulation and oversight by recognized bodies. Other aspects of the topic, such as the need for informed consent, are briefly discussed. We conclude that, at the present time, more data documenting convincing efficacy, focused on clinically applicable immunosuppressive regimens, are needed to justify the initiation of closely monitored clinical trials. A clinical trial may then be justified even though the potential risk to the patients, and possibly for society, will not be zero. © 2006 The Authors.