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. Second, to review the problems raised by experimentation on animals. To show some different examples of bioethics. Third, to show the biblical view of the matter. Finally, to bring the reader to his or her own clear conclusion, without a bias opinion on the matter.
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).
Since we are in Canada, there are two categories of law dealing with regulating experimentation. The first is Federal and Provincial Legislation. The second consists of documents, codes of ethics and reports, which while not necessarily enforceable, strongly urge researchers experiments on human subjects to observe certain standards of conduct.
A. FEDERAL AND PROVINCIAL LEGISLATION
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms governs here. Some of its provisions in effect make certain kinds of experiments illegal. "Any experimental activity which endangers the protected values is thereof illegal." Another is according to current case law, "treatment" may be broadly construed rather than being limited to therapy.
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 Canada 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 experiment performed 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 Charter of the Rights and Freedoms.
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 Canada 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.
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 them?, just like a mother for her own child? One who agrees with this statement, most likely agrees that we should decide whether or not any experimentation on a creature that has no developed morals or rights can be performed. One who disagrees with the aforementioned statement has no question in his or her mind that, no experimentation should be performed if it results in the harm of the subject, be it a rat or a human.
The essence of this is based on human moral. Since we cannot communicate with the specimens other than humans (fetuses, animals, mentally disabled) we do not know of what moral standing these specimens should be granted, so we give them none. Is this fair. We limit ourselves to a certain amount of knowledge if certain experiments that are considered to be immoral are performed. The real question is again, where do we draw the line? Since animals are not themselves direst objects of moral concern, there are nonetheless certain things that are not morally justifiable when done to animals. On this view, unnecessary cruelty towards animals is forbidden because of the psychological fact that people who brutalize animals will or may tend to behave cruelly towards other people.
Again, there are two views that can be taken from this point. One is that, no experiment that one wouldn't perform on his fellow man, should not be performed on any animal. The other view is, if the experiment provides positive results, and is not cruel to the subject, then it should be allowed to be performed.
Although much abuse and infringement on animals rights has occurred over the past century in the field of study, that shouldn't stop us now from continued learning.
Here are some examples of abuse on animals and some issues involving bioethics. At the Department of Psychology at MIT, hamsters were blinded in a study showing that "blinding increases territorial aggression in male Syrian golden hamsters." At UCLA, monkeys were also blinded to study the effects of hallucinogens on them. Another example, lab rabbits were tested to see how they react to a companions death. These examples are true and show how far some people would let their curiosities take them. They are not necessary and such researcher should be suspended.
More examples of bioethics are such things like abortion and euthanasia. Genetic engineering, organ transplants, prostheses and artificial insemination are just a few examples that are considered to be unethical by some and ethical for others. Even such things as surrogate motherhood are considered unethical. To give you a better taste of what opposing arguments on a certain bioethical topic is, the artificial heart will be used as an example. The artificial heart should be used, even though it does not promise the subject an easy life, it does promise them life and that is all the patients want to hear, that they are going to live even just a year, month or week. The other side of the matter says that the artificial heart in not only unethical, it is too expensive. They believe that what G-D giveth, G-D can taketh awayeth. This brings us to the Biblical view on the matter.
Often in theses days it is said that the primary question is just that of human survival. Many say that we live on borrowed, and probably brief time. An "apocalyptic vision of a barren, radioactive, peopleless planet haunts the minds of young people......victims of instants cremation or inexorable, agonized death!" This statement is talking about society's technological advancements that are able to leave the world desolate and barren from people, plants and all living creatures.
What does this have to do with the study of Bioethics.? First, let's show how this relates to biblical text. Study of man has brought us to the possibility of complete desolation on an entire planet. Biblically, man should not interfere with what he has not produced or belonging to him. Even life does not belong to man himself, the choice cannot be made by him to take the lives of others. This is where the study of bioethics comes in. Even if the results of any experiments provide fruitful results, they cannot be performed if they involve interfering with what is not rightfully their own. This is like taking someone's life into your own hands, "playing god" as many say is a sin. Especially abortion, euthanasia, any birth control etc. This leaves society with no room for advancement, yet being a believer in G-D, the points sound valid ethically, yet more religiously. Many people of today's society feel that such a view will or may keep society from helping themselves provide better lives for themselves. The Biblical believers say contradict this with a very strong belief in God.
Finally, the time has come to make a valid conclusion. The decision is up to you to decide. The purpose of this essay was not to make the decision for you, it was to show both sides of the argument clearly without a bias opinion, and to let you the
reader decide. Ladies and Gentlemen the choice is now yours...