Jump to content

Bioethics Paper


Bryce
 Share

Recommended Posts

So I'm writing a bioethics paper on the ethics of animal experimentation and thought I'd come to you guys for some help. Any thoughts you have would be very much appreciated.

 

This is the first (very, very rough) draft of the first half of my paper. Thanks for your help.

Edited by Bryce
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I suppose...it's just a bit long for that and a lot of the formatting will get screwed up. Oh well. Keep in mind that it's supposed to be balanced and that I'm doing my best to give the animal researchers a fair shake (HA!) Here it is (so far):

 

The controversy surrounding how humans should (or should not) use animals has a long and storied history. Pythagoras first swore off meat in the fifth century BCE (Plutarch, 1957), Aristotle justified animal use in the third century BCE (1984) and Plutarch condemned all animal use except when necessary for survival in the first century CE (1957). In the 12th century, St. Thomas Aquinas (1976) came to the conclusion that it is wrong to harm animals because it leads to harming humans and Immanuel Kant (1978) came to the same conclusion in the 18th century. Jeremy Bentham wrote the now famous, “the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” in 1789 (311). Peter Singer’s influential work, Animal Liberation, was published in 1975 and brought the modern debate into the public eye.

The public has become especially concerned with the use of animals in medical experimentation. This is evidenced by rapid growth of groups that solely advocate or oppose animal experimentation. Groups advocating animal experimentation include Pro-Test, the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), and Americans for Medical Progress (AMP). Those opposed include the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), SPEAK, and Europeans for Medical Progress (EMP).

It is the goal of this paper to add to and clarify many of the arguments made by these groups. I will first begin with a discussion of the scientific validity of animal experiments, which will include arguments regarding their value in predicting human reaction to treatments and chemicals and then move on to an elucidation of the economic foundations of animal experimentation. After concluding that the validity of animal experimentation is dubious at best, I will move on to discuss the ethical debates surrounding animal experimentation. I will explain the major moral arguments on both sides of the debate, including their shortcomings and merits while including some arguments of my own. This will ultimately lead to the conclusion that the use of animals in medical experimentation cannot be ethically defensible.

Regarding Scientific Legitimacy

We move first to the legitimacy of animal experimentation because an understanding of the scientific issues will foster a greater understanding of the ethical issues. The scientific debates are also a major part of the animal experimentation issue, being the sole focus (rather than the ethical issues) of such groups as EMP, Americans for Medical Advancement, and AMP. Proponents of medical experimentation on animals claim that it is invaluable to medical progress. Paul (2002) has said, “practically all medical advances depend on experimentation on animals” (7). Opponents state that animal experimentation is harmful to humans by giving misleading results (Greek & Greek, 2001). Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mike Leavitt, said, “nine out of ten experimental drugs fail in clinical studies because we cannot accurately predict how they will behave in people based on laboratory and animal studies” (Food and Drug Administration [FDA], 2006). With so many conflicting statements, it is difficult to determine which are correct so we must look to motivations and possible conflicts of interest.

Successes and Failures

Animal research proponents cite such advancements as treatments for asthma, HIV/AIDS, cancer, hypertension, and the development of many vaccines and antibiotics as a direct result of animal testing (AMP, 2006) while others note that Thalidomide and Vioxx, drugs harmful to humans, were found to be safe during animal trials. With regard to these claims, it is important to make the distinction between animal experiments being involved in the creation of new drugs and being the origin of new drugs. By law, every new drug that comes to market must be tested on animals before being used in clinical trials. In this way it is true that animal experimentation has been involved in the development of countless life-saving treatments. However, this does not mean that animal experimentation is necessary or even valuable in the creation of new treatments. Pound et al. (2004) found that animal tests are often “regarded as irrelevant” in determining whether an experimental treatment will continue on to clinical trials (516).

There are also many problems with extrapolating the results of animal tests to humans. When dealing with birth defects, Bailey, Knight, and Balcombe (2005) found that, “reliable extrapolation from animal data to humans is impossible” (97). In fact, poor extrapolation has probably resulted in much harm to humans, in the form of delayed, beneficial treatments as well as harmful treatments that were found to be safe in animals. Parel et al. (2007) found a high rate of discordance between the treatment effects of animal models and human subjects. They find that this “may be due to…failure of animal models to mimic clinical disease adequately” (1). Lazarou, Pomeranz, and Corey (1998) found that adverse drug reactions are the 4th to 6th leading cause of death among Americans. These are injuries and deaths due to drugs that are “properly prescribed and administered” (1200). If animal testing were as successful as its proponents claim it is, we would be able to predict these reactions in humans from the animals. This is clearly not the case. This only makes sense when we see that people react differently to drugs based on sex, age, race, lifestyle, and diet. It only makes sense that reactions would be different between species.

Noting this, the list of successes due to animal research is probably much smaller than proponents claim, though not irrelevant. On the other hand, the list of drugs that eventually harmed humans due to poor animal testing is probably quite lengthy. Because there has been both harm and benefit due to animal experiments and it would be impossible to determine the exact effects of every animal test and weigh them out, we must look at different measures to get a better handle on the proportion of harmful and beneficial animal experiments.

Pressure to Publish

“There are few more familiar aphorisms in the academic community than ‘publish or perish’” (DeRond & Miller, 2005, 321). ‘Publish or perish’ refers to the pressure on academics to get research published. Publishing, especially research, is the path to success for those in the field of academia. Using animals in research is a comparatively easy way to generate this research, especially when compared to clinical research. Vaitukaitis (1991) stated, “Nothing is more difficult…than clinical research” (145). The National Research Council (1996) listed these specific advantages to using rodents: “Rodents are generally easy to obtain and relatively inexpensive to acquire and maintain” (17). Other advantages listed include “small size” (17) and availability of genetically modified animals. One does not have to worry about a rat not showing up for follow-up studies or lying on questionnaires. There are also less confounding variables in animal experiments because the researcher does not have to worry about other illnesses, family history, or other similar variables like diet when testing animals. Compared to much other research, experimenting on animals may be the easiest path to publication in the biomedical world. Moore (1986) went so far as to assert that, combined with the publish or perish mindset, “the availability of laboratory animals have made professional advancement the main reason for doing animal experiments” (975).

While pressure to publish may be a strong motivator for much animal research, this can by no means be grounds for a complete condemnation of animal experimentation, though it is surely reason to think twice about the reasons animal tests are performed.

Conflicts of Interest

One-fourth of biomedical researchers have financial ties to the biomedical industry (Bekelman, Li, & Gross, 2003). Campbell, Louis, and Blumenthall (1998) found that, far from being the bastions of integrity that we imagine researchers to be, they and the results of their experiments can be readily influenced by financial conflicts of interest. Stelfox, O’Rourke, and Detsky (1998) found that 96% of researchers who supported the use of a certain drug (calcium-channel antagonists, in this case) had financial relationships with manufacturers of the drug. Only 60% of those who were neutral about using the drug and 37% of those who were critical of the drug had financial ties with manufacturers. Researchers can and do have stakes in businesses such as those that produce medical equipment, including stereotaxic instruments, as well as animal breeders. When researchers have ties to the industry, as Bekelman, Li, and Gross acknowledged is often the case, their support of it should be subject to much greater scrutiny. In fact, Dr. Werner Hartinger takes a more forceful approach, believing that “there are, in fact, only two categories of doctors and scientists who are not opposed to vivisection: those who don’t know enough about it, and those who make money from it” (Greek & Greek, 2001, p. 77).

The previously cited study by Parel et al. (2007) that noted a disturbingly high rate of incongruity between the effects of treatment in animal models and human subjects stated that it “may be due to bias” (1). In other words, the results of research are skewed in favor of the researchers’ preferred outcomes.

However, animal researchers are not the only ones to have financial conflicts of interest. For example, PCRM is reported to have ties to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) (Carmichael, 2004). According to the Observer, a British newspaper, PETA has given over $1.3 million to PCRM (Doward & Townsend, 2004). This is cause for concern because PETA is well known for its hard-line, abolitionist beliefs regarding animal experimentation.

This illustrates that, though financial ties to industry among researchers are quite common and can readily distort experiment results and researchers’ opinions, those opposed to animal research are equally deserving of scrutiny. Caution must be used in making judgments regarding the validity of arguments regarding animal research.

Summary

The previous section made clear much of the motivation for performing animal research. When evaluating animal research, we must be aware of the underlying motivations of both proponents and opponents. While the information presented cannot lead us to any definite conclusions regarding the legitimacy of animal research, it is clear that animal research lies on shaky foundations and much of it may be useless. Noting this, it is appropriate to move on to a discussion of the ethical issues regarding the use of animals in medical experiments.

 

 

 

Reference List

Americans for Medical Progress. (2006). Everyday wonders. Retrieved March 13, 2007, from http://www.amprogress.org/site/c.jrLUK0PDLoF/b.1086431/k.ACC8/EVERYDAY_WONDERS.htm

Aquinas, T. (1976). On killing living things. In T. Regan & P. Singer (Eds.), Animal rights and human obligations (pp. 118-121). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

Aristotle. (1984). The politics (C. Lord, Trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Bailey, J., Knight, A., & Balcombe, J. (2005). The future of teratology research is in vitro. Biogenic Amines, 19(2), 97-145. [Electronic Version]

Bekelman, J. E., Li, Y., & Gross, G. P. (2003). Scope and impact of financial conflicts of interest in biomedical research: A systematic review. Journal of the American Medical Association, 289(4), 454-465.

Bentham, J. (1789) Principles of morals and legislation. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Campbell, E. G., Louis, K. S., & Blumenthal, D. (1998). Looking a gift horse in the mouth: Corporate gifts supporting life sciences research. Journal of the American Medical Association, 279(13), 995-999.

Carmichael, M. (2004, February 23). Atkins under attack. Newsweek, 143(8). [Electronic Version]

DeRond, M., & Miller, A.N. (2005). Publish or perish: Bane or boon of academic life?. Journal of Management Inquiry, 14(4), 321-329.

Doward, J., & Townsend, M. (2004, August 1). Beauty and the beasts. The Observer. Retrieved March 15, 2007, from http://observer.guardian.co.uk/focus/story/0,6903,1273697,00.html

Food and Drug Administration. (2006). FDA issues advice to make earliest stages of clinical drug development more efficient. Retrieved March 14, 2007, from http://www.fda.gov/ bbs/topics/news/2006/NEW01296.html

Greek, C.R., & Greek, J.S. (2001). Sacred cows and golden geese: The human cost of experiments on animals. New York: Continuum.

Kant, I. (1978). Lectures on Ethics. Nelson, B. (Ed.), Infield, L. (Trans.)

Lazarou, J., Pomeranz, B. H., & Corey, P. N. (1998). Incidence of adverse drug reactions in hospitalized patients: A Meta-analysis of prospective studies. Journal of the American Medical Association, 279(15), 1200-1205.

Moore, E.J.H. (1986). Animal experimentation (letter). Lancet, 8487, 975.

National Research Council. (1996). Laboratory animal management: Rodents. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Parel, P., et al. (2007). Comparison of treatment effects between animal experiments and clinical trials: A Systematic review. British Medical Journal, 334. [Electronic Version]

Paul, E.F. (2002). Why animal experimentation matters. Society, 39(6), 7-15. [Electronic Version]

Plutarch. (1957). Moralia. (Vol 12). Goold, G.P. (Ed.), Cherniss, H., & Helmbold, W.C., (Trans.). Cambridge: Harvard University Press

Pound, P., Ebrahim, S., Sandercock, P., Bracken, M. B., & Roberts, I. (2004). Where is the evidence that animal research benefits humans? British Medical Journal, 328, 514-517. [Electronic Version]

Regan, T., & Singer, P. (Eds.). (1976). Animal rights and human obligations. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Singer, P. (1975). Animal liberation: A new ethics for our treatment of animals. New York: Random House.

Stelfox, H.T., Chua, G., O’Rourke, K., & Detsky, A.S. (1998). Conflict of interest in the debate over calcium-channel antagonists. New England Journal of Medicine, 338(2), 101-106.

Vaitukaitis, J. L. (1991). The future of clinical research. Clinical Research, 39(2), 145-156.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll print it and read it. Don't expect a reesponse before tuesday, but I'll give it a go.

 

For starters: In your references you should include the original appearance of the text. Neither pythagoras, plutarch, aristotle or aquinas lived in the 20th century

 

'Real' comments will follow after the weekend!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll print it and read it. Don't expect a reesponse before tuesday, but I'll give it a go.

 

For starters: In your references you should include the original appearance of the text. Neither pythagoras, plutarch, aristotle or aquinas lived in the 20th century

 

'Real' comments will follow after the weekend!

 

That's my biggest problem so far in my references. I have no idea how to cite that because it's not going to be possible to find their original publications. Any tips on how to correctly cite that would be very much appreciated.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I dont think you will find their original texts quickly. Its probably best to just stick with some history text. I only know APA format so if you need some help with that... I remember reading that penicillin was kept off market for 10 years just because animal testing had to be done so you can look into that if interested. And as the current animal testing goes there are some medications out which failed numerous times but I think you had to have just 5 positive tests, you can have as many failures as you want. Have you read much about this? I think the case could also be made that each day a drug is kept off the market many people die. Even if one or two die and 10 are saved you then have a utilitarian argument to put the drugs on the market as quickly as possible.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I dont think you will find their original texts quickly. Its probably best to just stick with some history text. I only know APA format so if you need some help with that... I remember reading that penicillin was kept off market for 10 years just because animal testing had to be done so you can look into that if interested. And as the current animal testing goes there are some medications out which failed numerous times but I think you had to have just 5 positive tests, you can have as many failures as you want. Have you read much about this? I think the case could also be made that each day a drug is kept off the market many people die. Even if one or two die and 10 are saved you then have a utilitarian argument to put the drugs on the market as quickly as possible.

 

This paper is supposed to be in APA format. If you're willing to help me out with that, I'd sure be appreciative. My headings don't look right. But if you're willing to have me email it to you (so you can actually see the formatting) it'd be great.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

 

For starters: In your references you should include the original appearance of the text. Neither pythagoras, plutarch, aristotle or aquinas lived in the 20th century

 

 

None of Pythagoras' original writings are known to exist. Everything known about him is from the writings of others.

 

In this case, modern references are better because they tend to reflect current knowledge.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...