Ethical decision making about animal experiments

Ethics and Behavior 7 (2):163 – 171 (1997)
Laboratory animals, being vulnerable subjects, need the protection provided by adequate ethical review. This review falls primarily to Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees. A review committee's first duty is to identify which procedures ethically are unacceptable irrespective of any knowledge that might be derived. Examples are provided. These projects should be disapproved. Then, "on balance" judgments are assessed that weigh the animal harms against the potential benefits to humans. Several countries (but not the United States) use a classification system for ranking the degree of animal pain and distress. This type of assessment is essential for careful ethical analysis. Another way to enhance ethical discussion is to strive for a more balanced perspective of different viewpoints among members of decision making committees. Inclusion of representatives of animal welfare organizations and a greater proportion on nonanimal researchers would likely achieve this objective.
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