Ethics of Animal Research

Ethics of Animal Research

LEITERS TO THE EDITOR up-regulation of serotonin binding sites in frontal cortex of rat, Neuropharmacology, 24:45-48 . Ethics of Animal Research To ...

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LEITERS TO THE EDITOR

up-regulation of serotonin binding sites in frontal cortex of rat, Neuropharmacology, 24:45-48 .

Ethics of Animal Research To the Editor: The article by Munir and Earls (1992) on ethical principles in research is a welcome overview of ethical guidelines yet lacks mention of any ethics in using nonhuman animals in research. Nowhere in the title or the body of the article does it say that the authors have deliberately decided to restrict their focus to human subjects. I'm wondering, was this omission of nonhuman animals deliberate, was it an oversight, or were the ethics of nonhuman animal research considered to be of little importance? Certainly the use of nonhuman animals in research in child and adolescent psychiatry is widespread enough to warrant some thought. Discussions of attachment, aggression, and depression, to name a few, frequently cite research done with nonhuman animals. I realize that this journal does not publish much, relatively, on purely nonhuman animal experiments, yet the selected articles frequently cite research done with nonhumans to support the speculations, theories, and conclusions. The latest government estimate of the number of nonhuman animals used in biomedical research (Office of Technology Assessment, 1986) was 17 to 22 million annually. Would not the pain, suffering, and "sacrifice" of these animals deserve some ethical consideration? Potential interesting topics could be how does one override the issue of consent with nonhumans; when is it acceptable and when is it not? What things may be done to a nonhuman subject? Anything at all? Anything with an acceptable risk-benefit ratio? How is the riskbenefit ratio measured? When is it acceptable, if ever, to deprive an animal of life for the sake of research? Is using nonhumans instead of humans the best way to get answers, or is it the quickest way to get some results? Considering that research on humans yields more accurate findings for human than does nonhuman research (but often takes considerably longer and may be more technically difficult), should the impatience of researchers override the best interests of science (if it can be called that)? And if one decides it is acceptable to use nonhuman subjects, then what are the acceptable laboratory living conditions: what shall be the animals quality of life in the lab? This issue of quality of life has been an ongoing controversy between the government and the research community since 1985 when Congress passed amendments to the Animal Welfare Act to try.to improve conditions for dogs and primates. I am interested to know why the authors were silent on this issue. It seems relevant and important. Michael Scheeringa, M.D. Indiana University, Indianapolis REFERENCES

Munir, K. M. & Earls, F. (1992), Ethical principles governing research in child and adolescent psychiatry. J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 31:408-411. Office of Technology Assessment. Alternatives to Animal Use in Research Testing, and Education. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1986. (OTA publication OTA-BA-273.) Drs. Munir and Earls reply: We thank Dr. Scheeringa for his thoughtful remarks. The use of laboratory animals in biomedical research with particular relevance to child and adolescent psychiatry is certainly widespread enough. Our article was implicit in defining and focusing on research involving J.AmAcad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 32:2, March 1993

children and adolescents as human subjects of investigation. Our discussion on the protection of ethical standards, scientific integrity, national research goals, research stewardship, and institutional obligations, however, applies both to studies involving humans and animals. We welcome this opportunity to make comments on ethics of research involving laboratory animals. First and foremost, we agree with Cohen (1986) and Pardes et al. (1991) that the responsible use of animals in scientific research for the benefit of humans is both morally justified and sound. We also agree that "for the sake of both good science and human decency" (Pardes et aI., 1991) medical scientists are committed to the principle of humane treatment and welfare of animals. Indeed, these efforts are guided, not only by good faith but also by means of strict federal regulations such as the Animal Welfare Act (and its amendments as Dr. Scheeringa mentions), which stipulate that all institutions using animals in research should have an institutional animal care and use committee akin to an institutional review board, including among , its members, along with scientists, concerned private citizens and a veterinarian. Investigators are ordinarily required to submit to the committee their rationale on the use of animals, description of the procedures for anesthesia, and proper pain alleviation, as well as other quality of life issues such as living conditions and treatment of animals in the laboratory. Institutional regulation and training of scientists is most useful and essential in this regard. In addition to the Animal Welfare laws, the American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC), a nonprofit body, accredits institutions and encourages high standards of care (including veterinary care) of laboratory animals. Among its 700 or more member institutions are schools of medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, as well as hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and federal or state funded laboratories. The American Medical Association (and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry), the Society of Neuroscience, and the Society of Pediatric Research, among others, are all members of AAALAC . Of the 17 to 22 million laboratory animals used in biomedical research annually, the predominant number is rodents; dogs and cats constitute 1 to 2% (Office of Technology Assessment, 1986). The "risk-benefit ratio" as Dr. Scheeringa has asked may not be measurable by utilitarian perspectives alone, although it may be compellingly argued that biomedical research using animals has saved millions of lives and considerably improved life expectancy worldwide (Koop, 1990). Although broad comparisons between human life and other "nonhuman" animal life is possible, from the ethical perspective the " moral worth" ascribed to human beings is not commensurate with that ascribed to "other" animals. At present there is no desirable alternative to using laboratory animals in biomedical research (Office of Technology Assessment, 1986). There is, however, a rational basis in separating out experimentation on human beings and laboratory animals. As Kant has said, "Human beings are selves; they are also ends in themselves." "They are irreplaceable; and in being irreplaceable they are clearly very different .. . They are capable of enjoying life, and they are capable of suffering, and of facing death consciously" (Popper and Eccles, 1986). The debate on animal welfare and biomedical research is tempered by the beliefs and actions of the animal-rights extremists (Pardes et aI., 1991). Scientists and institutions, despite physical attacks, threats of violence, and vandalism continue to ensure a high quality of laboratory care of animals "in the most scrupulously humane terms" (Pardes et aI., 1991). An informed debate on ethics of animal research is most helpful to clinicians and other responsible defenders of biomedical science and its goals. A moral danger rests with the extreme views and actions of animal-rights activists in their attempts to curtail or eliminate animal studies altogether. If the cost to human beings is the

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