Special Section: Moving Forward in Animal Research Ethics Guest Editorial Reassessing Animal Research Ethics

Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 24 (4):385-389 (2015)
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Animal research has long been a source of biomedical aspirations and moral concern. Examples of both hope and concern are abundant today. In recent months, as is common practice, monkeys have served as test subjects in promising preclinical trials for an Ebola vaccine or treatment 1 , 2 , 3 and in controversial maternal deprivation studies. 4 The unresolved tension between the noble aspirations of animal research and the ethical controversies it often generates motivates the present issue of the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics. As editors of this special section, we hope that these original and timely articles will push the professional discussion of animal research ethics in a positive direction that will benefi t research scientists and others interested in moral problems in animal research. We also look forward to a day when animal research will genuinely meet both appropriate scientifi c and appropriate ethical criteria—criteria that themselves can be improved by critical scrutiny. Animal research—that is, the use of live animals as experimental subjects in biomedical and behavioral fi elds of learning—has been deeply entrenched for well over half a century. One signal development was the enactment in the late 1930s of federal product safety legislation in the United States and other nations that required animal testing of food, drugs, and medical devices prior to use by human subjects or consumers. 5 Another development was the publication of codes of research ethics that called for animal research prior to human research. The Nuremberg Code, published by an American military tribunal in 1947–48 after scrutiny of Nazi medical atrocities, stated that experiments involving the use of human subjects should be " based on the results of animal experimentation. " 6 The Declaration of Helsinki, fi rst published in 1964, reaffi rmed this assumption and added, rather imprecisely, that " the welfare of animals used for research must be respected. " 7 Against the background of such statements, the institutionalization and widespread acceptance of animal research in the twentieth century rested on two basic assumptions, one factual and one moral. The factual assumption was that animal research is suffi ciently reliable as a basis for predicting the effects of drugs, products, and other materials on human beings that animal trials can be expected to yield signifi cant scientifi c conclusions and medical benefi ts to humanity.

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David DeGrazia
George Washington University


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