Posted by barbara on .
identify and classify the different fallacReprinted from "Animals Hold the Key to Saving Human Lives," Los Angeles Times, February 5, 1996, by permission of the author.
Dr. Joseph E. Murray, a Nobel laureate, performed the first human kidney transplant in 1954. He is a member of the board of directors of Americans for Medical Progress, an organization that believes animal experimentation is necessary for medical research.
In December 1995, AIDS patient Jeff Getty underwent an experimental treatment that involved injecting bone marrow cells from a baboon into his body to bolster his immune system (baboons are immune to the AIDS virus). The loss of the donor baboon was tolerable because scientists and doctors should use all methods at hand when combating deadly human diseases. Like the many other treatments and medicines that have contributed to improved human health, the cure for AIDS will undoubtedly come through animal experimentation. (Editor's note: Getty's body rejected the baboon cells, but he continues to look for other cures.)
The recent experimental transplant of bone marrow cells from a baboon into a human AIDS patient has already elicited one conclusion: Americans must decide whether they support animal research or "animal rights."
Even before Jeff Getty entered San Francisco General Hospital for the procedure, the public relations machinery of PETA, the Humane Society of the United States and other groups that take the extreme animal rights view went into high gear with the message that humans have no right to interfere with animals, even if lives are in the balance—which they are; AIDS research would be impossible without animal experimentation.
Animal activists, in commentaries, letters to the editor and TV news sound bites, have blasted researchers' latest attempt to find an effective treatment for AIDS. This offensive against scientific inquiry comes as no surprise. In 1990, PETA's founder, Ingrid Newkirk, told a magazine reporter that if animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS, "we'd be against it."
Animal activists oppose all animal-based medical research. If we had listened to their arguments 50 years ago, children still would be contracting polio (the vaccine was developed in monkeys). Diabetics would not have insulin, a benefit of research on dogs. We would also be without antibiotics for pneumonia, chemotherapy for cancer, surgery for heart diseases, organ transplants and joint replacement.
Today, once again, the animal activists are wrong. And we can't let a potential treatment for AIDS fall victim to their specious rhetoric.
This debate is not just about AIDS and Jeff Getty's immune system. The knowledge gained from this experiment could have an impact on cancer therapy. The research almost certainly will enable doctors someday to treat leukemia, aplastic anemia and lymphoma patients with human bone marrow that is less than a perfect match and to open the pool of potential organ donors to include animals.
Finding a cure warrants the sacrifice
There are honest differences of opinion in the scientific community about the assumptions on which the Getty experiment is based. Although I am not directly involved in this research, I am convinced that all reasonable approaches must be objectively investigated if we are to conquer AIDS.
Animal activists condemn the experiment as morally wrong because the baboon donor was killed. In practical terms, they say, even if the transplant works, there are not enough baboons to provide marrow cells for all AIDS patients.
The baboon donor for the Getty experiment, raised in captivity for research, was fully anesthetized while the marrow cells were drawn. The animal was sacrificed then because all tissues had to be preserved for further scientific study. In the future, when the procedure moves out of the experimental phase, scientists will be able to harvest the necessary cells without sacrificing an animal. Ultimately, sufficient numbers of cells will almost certainly be grown in cultures. As has been the case in countless other medical treatments, the initial techniques will be simplified as the procedure becomes more routine.
For all its potential, there are no guarantees that the procedure will work, that the transplanted cells will take hold in Getty's system or that they will provide him with any increased immunity. Nor are there any guarantees that he will be safe from baboon diseases. Guarantees are not the nature of medical research.
Medical research is a lengthy, highly risky and expensive process with no certainties. Without taking the time, braving the risks and paying the costs, there can be no success. The Getty experiment is an important step in this ongoing process. Scientists agree that whenever a cure for AIDS is found, it will be through animal research.
Medical researchers are working for the health of us all. They should not be diverted from that essential purpose by irrational "animal rights" demands. Lies, threats, intimidation and violence by the movement's extremists already have delayed scientists' projects and delayed the benefits of their research from reaching the public.
As we approach the 15th anniversary of the discovery of the AIDS virus, it is not enough to wear red ribbons and hope that a cure is found. We must actively support those scientists, doctors and brave volunteers such as Jeff Getty who are on the front lines of research.
ies in this essay.