Progress in the pharmacological, medical and biological sciences involves experimentation on all living species, including animals and humans. The effectiveness of medications investigative procedures and treatments must at some point be tested on animals and human beings. Although tests are conducted much more frequently on lab animals, especially those most related to humans, they do not provide sufficient information.
The history of medicine shows that there has always been a need for experimentation on human beings. Examples of these consist of the inoculation of Newgate prisoners in 1721, who had been condemned to death with Smallpox.
In 1796, Edward Jenner, also studying Smallpox, inoculated an eight year old boy with pus from a diseased cow. The list goes on, and such experiments continue even until today.
Nowadays these experiments would be ethically and legally unacceptable. Nevertheless, there have been clear documented cases of abuse in recent times. An example of this is the experiments conducted by Nazi doctors on prisoners in the concentration camps during the Holocaust. Does this mean that since there is potential for abuse, all experimentation should be banned? This would mean that society would be condemned to remain at the same level of knowledge (status quo)? Bioethically speaking, how far can we go in the study of the human without crossing the line? The fundamental question is, since we are the ones drawing the line, where do we draw it?
The purpose of this essay is to provide a clear sense of the present law on this issue.
To review the problems raised by experimentation on animals.
THE CURRENT STATE OF THE LAW
Biomedical experimentation on human subjects raises many complex legal problems that the law must deal with accordingly. For example, infringement on the rules subjects the researcher not only to criminal sanctions, but also civil sanctions (damages for harm caused), administrative sanctions (withdrawal of funds), or disciplinary sanctions (suspension from the researchers’ professional association).
A. FEDERAL AND PROVINCIAL LEGISLATION
Criminal sanctions dealing with offences against the person make it possible to penalize those causing harm to a subject who has not given valid consent to an experiment. Explaining this, many experiments on humans are legal and performed everyday.
No experiment is performed without a purpose. The most common is during surgery, the patients give valid consent to have experiments conducted on them during the operation.
With respect to medications, citizens of The United States are given protection by the Food and Drug Act. These laws control new medications into the market. Although this seems as though it contains no ethical procedures it touches upon the experimentation prior to the release of the medication. Many animals have been used in order to bring these medications to the market.
Furthermore, humans must have been used during experimentation. According to the Law, any experimentperformed on a person to bring out any new medication may result in criminal sanction (homicide, damages for harm, suspension). Here are a few examples given by the of National Orders of Technology. The experiment should be so designed and based on the results of animal experimentation and a knowledge of the natural history of the diseased of other problem under study that the anticipated results will justify the performance of the experiment. The degree of risk to be taken should never exceed that determined by the humanitarian importance of the problem to be solved by the experiment. The voluntary consent of the human is absolutely essential.
B. ETHICAL DOCUMENTS
In 1977, a report of the American Council was prepared on ethics. It was responsible for construing ethical guidelines for the people to abide by. Although the report deals with ethics in the bio-medical studies, it emphasizes more on other issues.
ANIMAL RIGHTS EXPERIMENTATION ON FETUSES
euthanasia, abortion, genetic engineering
Since the law states that most experimentation performed on animals and humans is unethical yet provides fruitful results, it should be left to the people to make the decision whether or not experimentation should continue and to what extent. If we are considered to be a moral race, then should we be allowed to make the choice for anyone who cannot make the choice for themselves?; just like a mother for her own child.