scientists believe animal testing, when performed “ethically”, provides the
most accurate results because “our DNA is like most animals”. The question
resulting from this belief is, what is “ethical” animal testing? Scientifically
speaking, our research must come from somewhere. How are we to test medications
for diseases before approving them for mass consumption? Ethical animal testing
is supposed to be last resort. Scientists must meet certain criteria to
“ethically” test their products or hypothesis on animals.
Animals are not strictly used for testing
medication on diseases before we use them for human consumption. They are also
used to test food additives, cosmetic products and household cleaner safety (National
Research Council, 2004). Agencies in charge of overseeing the different
processes include the Food and Drug Administration, Consumer Product Safety
Commission, Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (National Research Council, 2004). Testing on animals is not
taken lightly in today’s society. Many product producers pride themselves on
not testing on animals. Some consumers look for “cruelty free” on their
products thinking that this means the product was not tested on animals.
Cruelty free can mean that the ingredients of the product were tested on
animals separately and the final product was not test on animals (National
Research Council, 2004). This can be misleading for consumers. The reality of
it is that animal testing is necessary for some products and not for others. Products
are tested on animals before humans for safety purposes. Before a product can
pass regulations to be sold, it must be proven that the product is safe and
will not cause harm to the consumer. Many advancements have been made to
drastically reduce the need to test on animals with products such as cosmetics
and perfumes however, some products still require animal testing to prove the
product is safe to use on humans (National Research Council, 2004).
Testing on humans still occur such as
clinical trials. Patients who are sick with no cure can opt to be a part of
clinical trials to try to find a cure. These trials, of course, must pass
several tests and go through the FDA to make sure it is ethically sound.
Sometimes the trial helps and the doctors can find a cure, others no cure is
Clinical Research Ethics
A major ethical violation in history
that comes to many people’s minds the experiments performed by Nazi Germany
during World War II. The list of inhumane unethical experiments performed by
the Nazi’s is very long. Some examples include: amputating patient’s limbs with
no anesthesia to see the results of pain tolerance and the bodies reaction,
blood coagulation experiments where the patients were given pills, that the
doctors believed would help clot the blood if injured, and then shot in the
neck to see the results of the pill, hypothermia experiments, the list goes on
and on. Experiments that the Nazi’s are mostly known for are the experiments
performed on twins (Bundit, 2017). The Nazi’s goal was to eliminate every race
excluding the Aryan race, what they believed to be the superior race. Dr. Josef
Mengele, commonly known as the Angel of Death, performed experiments on twins
to study the heredity of their DNA, taking extensive measurements and
performing several blood tests (Bundit, 2017).
Because of the unethical experiments
performed by the Nazi’s, the Nuremberg Code was created. This code stated that
participants in clinical experiments must be voluntary (My CGU, 2016).
Volunteers to the clinical experiment must have informed consent. Informed
consent is a way for the participants to be in control of what will and will
not happen to them (My CGU, 2016). With informed consent, the participants are
voluntary, informed of not only the experiment, but also the possible outcomes
and they must understand and be comprehensive of the experiment and what is
happening (My CGU, 2016). Informed consent is to protect the participants and
make sure they are safe and not blindsided by the experimenter(s). It is
important to get this informed consent form signed before starting any part of
the experiment to not only make sure the participant understands the experiment
but to also protect the experimenter from any backlash that comes from the
experiment. It protects both participant and performer of the experiment
legally and ethically.
The Declaration of Helsinki was created
to protect participants who do not have the mental capacity to sign a consent
form like a dementia patient, for example. These participants can only be
considered appropriately informed if the participant’s representative, such as
a caregiver, is informed and approves of the experiment (Wendler, 2017). If a participant who has signs an Informed
Consent form without a representative present, that is not an appropriate
example of informed consent, and the form becomes invalid.
research involving humans at a University, the research must be approved and
overseen by the Institutional Review Board, or the IRB (Arizona State University,
2018). The IRB ensures the participants are treated ethically and know their
rights in the experimentation process (Arizona State University, 2018). Before
an experiment can start, the IRB must approve the experiment and its methods
before the experimenter can even begin to look for participants (Arizona State University,
2018). The experimenter must follow the strict guidelines given by the IRB
throughout the experiment.
is easy to tell if a research experiment was approved by an oversight committee
while reading a scientific article by looking to see if it says it is a peer
reviewed article. This means the research and research paper was reviewed by a
committee who is knowledgeable in the area being experimented and the
information given in the article is based on data collected ethically. Peer
reviewed articles are one of the highest reference points used while performing
research medically. Angelo State Universities’ library webpage explains peer
reviewed articles as: “Articles
are written by experts and are reviewed by several other experts in the field
before the article is published in the journal in order to insure the article’s
quality.” (Angelo State University, 2018).
Use of Animals in Research
In 2013, Harvard was fined for violating the Animal Welfare
Act while using monkeys for research (Grant, 2013). The animals were found to
be dehydrated due to neglect from the experimenters. The US Department of
Agriculture fined the University $24,000 as some animals had to be put down due
to dehydration (Grant, 2013). Harvard decided to shut down the Primate Research
Center afterwards due to financial reasons (Grant, 2013). In 2012, Emory
University was found guilty of violating the Animal Welfare act because an
experimenter returned a primate to a wrong cage resulting in the monkey’s
death. Further investigation revealed numerous roaches in the monkey’s cages as
well as piles of feces (Orr, 2013).
The Animal Welfare Act was passed in
1966 to regulate the care of animals in research and experimentation. This is a
broad act to protect animals from poor conditions, abuse and cruelty from
experimenters. This act however, does
not cover animals such as rats, birds and mice raised for research as well as
farm animals raised for food (National Research Council, 2004).
Universities that receive Public Health
Service Funds must adhere to the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care
and Use of Laboratory Animals, or the PHS policy. This act is a broader act
than the Animal Welfare act in that it includes all animals with vertebra,
including fish and reptiles (National Research Council, 2004).
The Institutional Animal Care and Use
Committee, or IACUC, oversees approving and overseeing institutions use and
care of animals (National Research Council, 2004). As a committee, they must
inspect the animal’s lab at least twice a year, approve and or disapprove
research protocols, investigate claims of noncompliance of animal care, report
violations of animal care and submit evaluation reports using animals to the
institution (National Research Council, 2004).
There are many misconceptions about
using animals for research. Not all experimenters are mad scientists who
neglect their animals and abuse them in the name of science. One of the biggest
misconceptions about experimentation on animals is that it is irrelevant and
not needed as animals are too different from humans to get an accurate result
in experimentation (Understanding Animal Research, 2017). Humans are mammals
and all mammals have a heart, lungs, brain, and so on (Understanding Animal
Research, 2017). This gives experimenters an accurate representation of how a
drug can react to a nervous system, for example.
Another huge misconception is that
lab animals are abused and made to suffer. This is by far not the truth. Law
requires researchers to minimize the stress and suffering of animals in
research (Understanding Animal Research, 2017).
Animal research is important in
scientific discovery in that without it, we would not know most of the things
we know or have most of the medications and vaccines that we have, without
hurting and risking human lives. Humans share 95% of the same DNA as humans
(Understanding Animal Research, 2017). This DNA similarity helps scientists
understand the affects medications can have on humans before we give it to the human
population. Since animals have similar DNA as humans, this means they are
susceptible to the same diseases and illnesses as us such as diabetes,
blindness, the flu, etc. This makes testing medication even more valuable as if
it can help the animals disease, we are closer to helping the disease in the
human body. Another necessity is testing veterinary medication on animals.
Without testing these medications, there would not be veterinary medications
for our pets (Understanding Animal Research, 2017).
Animals are important to scientific
research. Without experimentation on animals, we wouldn’t have many of our
medical advancements that we have today that have saved countless human lives.
One advancement made thanks to animal experimentation is kidney and other organ
transplants. While perfecting the kidney transplant, the issue was not so much
the actual transplant, but rejection of the new organ. Experimentation on
animals helped the scientists understand the importance of immune suppressant
drugs to stop the immune system from rejecting the foreign organ. Today,
experiments are still being done on animals to help lessen the risks of
rejection for high risk patients (Burkhalter, 2016).
Another advancement that we owe to
animal experimentation is the discovery of insulin. Many people around the
world suffer from diabetes. It was easy for scientists to discover that without
a pancreas, we would die. This is thanks to their experimentation on dogs. What
was harder for them to figure out was that insulin can help regulate blood
sugar. The scientists continued their experimentation on dogs and rabbits until
finally using insulin on human patients in 1922. Today, insulin experimentation
continues in animals such as fish as we search to find a cure for diabetes
instead of a cure. Without animal experimentation, we would not have discovered
insulin and known the proper use for it, for overdose can be fatal (Lankinen,
Laws are in place to keep scientists
ethically in check while performing their experiments and clinical trials be it
on animals or humans. These are to protect the patient/animal from unnecessary
harm or distress. With these guidelines followed, research is obtained
ethically. This is important as results can be skewed if say an animals stress
level was elevated due to unregulated living conditions. Ethics in research should
be the experimenters first priority as there are several checks to ensure an
ethical experiment is being conducted.