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Medical Ethics in Treatment of Animals Synthesis Essay


The use of animals in research has raised concern among organisations that fight for animal rights. In the recent past, there has been an attempt to use alternative methods such as the Ames test which uses a bacterium.

The attempt to replace rodents with such bacteria has not been completely successful (Festing & Wilkinson 2007). Animals still remain the best option for research and they have contributed a lot to science.

Due to the irreplaceability of animals, researchers have to observe maximum reduction and refinement to ensure humane treatment of animals. Improvements of animal husbandly and housing are a few examples that can help achieve reduction and refinement (Festing & Wilkinson 2007).

To assist researchers in understanding what constitutes humane treatment of animals, there is a code that has been put in place.

For example, the Australian code of Practice for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes (the code) stipulates that an animal ethics committee (AEC), responsible for ensuring that animals are treated correctly, must be appointed by any institution that wishes to use animals for training or research (Rose et al. 2010).

In this case the applicant is an institution and in accordance with the code. In addition, the applicant has appointed an AEC, in line with the Australian code of Practice for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes.

The members of the AEC have however, not been listed and this is important as the code requires that they should have a certain representation. There are four categories that are required and these are a veterinarian, an active scientist, a person representing animal welfare and a community representative (Rose et al. 2010).

The applicants have justified their animal of choice. In addition, they have chosen laboratory rats and mice as they are appropriate for the medical research training they are aiming to do.

One of the most commonly used animals in research is mice which make up about 90% of all species used in medical experiments (Streba 2012). Moreover, the applicants also point out that the procedures they intend to follow are applicable and suitable for adult animals.

The other alternative animals they could have chosen are the apes. However, the apes have higher cognitive capacities and carry more ethical responsibilities (Nuffield Council on Bioethics 2012). They also have higher maintenance costs and require special housing conditions and expert handling.

The applicants’ housing conditions for the rats and mice are adequate. The rats are housed close to where the training will be taking place minimizing time spent in motion and making it easier for them to acclimatize. The animals have been provided with temperature controlled rodent rooms.

In there the rodents are placed in boxes fitted with high top wire lids to enable them to see out of their boxes. They are also housed in fours to minimize social isolation.

The manner and frequency in which the boxes will be cleaned has, however, not been mentioned and this is important in ensuring that the animals will be well treated (Nuffield Council on Bioethics 2012). A very dirty cage is not good for the animals’ wellbeing.

At the same time, cleaning the boxes too many times disrupts the urine odors used by mice to maintain social hierarchies and to mark their territories. Denying them this social interactions stresses them unnecessarily (Speaking of research 2012).

The applicants have refined the experimental procedures and the management of pain. Drug-based methods or pain minimization strategies such as rotation of injection sites are recommended (Whittomez 2007).

The applicants plan on using anaesthetics and the only pain that will be felt will be in the minute during which the anaesthetic will be injected. In 2004, the code included definitions of pain, distress and wellbeing in its requirements for assessing humane treatment of research animals (Rose, et al. 2010).

Animals should be free from prolonged or intense fear, pain and other unpleasant states for them to feel well. They should be allowed to feel normal pleasures like satisfactory health growth and behavioural and physiologic functioning for them to function well.

The culture of care is achieved by ensuring that all personnel involved in the process are well trained (Festing & Wilkinson 2007). According to this application, training on handling rats and mice and in injecting them will be given to every student.

This proposal has shown adherence to some of the 3Rs which are refinement, reduction and replacement. They have shown reduction by performing the experiments in a way that will reduce the number of animals, the discomfort they may feel and the pain (Streba et al. 2012).

The number of animals requested is clear and consistent throughout the application. They have chosen to have 40 animals for the study as the class has forty students. This will ensure that they use few animals while ensuring that the information obtained is significant and of an acceptable level.

The application must state the fate of the animals after the research is over (Whittome 2007). This application has stated that no animals will be killed.

The applicants have shown a willingness to properly monitor the animals’ health. They have staff and students monitoring the animals around the clock. They have a departmental vet who is to be called whenever signs of poor health such as lethargy, hunching, fur erect, obvious injuries or failure to feed are observed.

The use of a veterinaries is recommended as they are in a position to identify animal discomfort and intervene when pain or distress level are greater than those intended by the guidelines set by the study (Streba et al. 2012). In the training practices, trainers look for indicators of discomfort in the animal.

An animal will eagerly present cued behaviours when given positive reinforcement. If the animal moves away from a trainer, exhibits aggressive behaviour or only seems to be playing along with the trainers, then its training plan needs to be reevaluated (Heidenreich 2010).

From their application, it is easy to understand how they intend to answer each of their key aims. All questions in the application have been answered as recommended by Whittome (2008) in plain English that is easy for lay as well scientist readers to understand.

Most of the procedures that will be followed have been explained in detail. According to Whittome, scientific details such as needle gauges, dose rate and volumes, time points, routes of administration and the number of times it is to be repeated must be justified (2007).

The application states that the route of administration will be subcutaneously, the time taken will be 2-3 minutes. One student will restrain the rat as the other injects it. This is normal practice as a mouse may easily be injected by an individual but a rat normally takes two individuals (Boston University 2011).

BU (2011) recommends injecting into the loose skin on the back of the neck. These applicants also states that a low dose of a female reproductive hormone is administered but does not state the dosage volume or the needle gauge to be used.

This is important as sometimes the use of needle gauges is viewed as inappropriate for some animals or unsuitable for certain situations (Whittome 2007).

For mice, the recommended gauge needle for vascular injection is 28-30 while for rats, it is 25-27 with 1ml or 3ml syringes for rats and 300 to 500 microlitre syringes for mice (UCSF 2008). The applicants are injecting subcutaneously and their needles should therefore not exceed these.

The duration of time during which the animals will be utilized for the research has been stated. The animals will only be used for twelve weeks. None of the animals has been used in previous research and none will be sampled repeatedly by these applicants (|Nuffield Council on Bioethics 2012).

The applicants have stated that the procedures performed on the rats and mice will be minimal and that they will be returned to be used for breeding.

The applicants are suitably trained for the activities that they are planning to carry out. The individual supervising the project has been working with laboratory rats and mice for biomedical research for twenty years. He graduated with honors in Bachelor of Science and has a PhD in Physiology.

His colleague has seventeen years of similar experience and graduated with honors in Bachelor of Science. They have both performed the procedures outlined in the application more than twenty times.

Their application shows an ethical approach to each experiment and that is what is considered to be relevant in the world of ethics (BBC 2012).

The applicants have answered all the questions in the application. In addition, all the sections except the members of the institution’s AEC are clearly and adequately explained. It is also easy to see how they intend to address each of their key aims (|Nuffield Council on Bioethics 2012).

The number of animals requested is clear and consistent throughout the application. Other than not stating the dosage volume to be administered and the needle gauges to be used on the animals, this application explains in detail exactly what is going to happen to the animals.

They also go further to explain why their procedures will not have a detrimental effect on the animals. They also have elaborated the conditions in which the rodents are living and they are within acceptable standards (|Nuffield Council on Bioethics 2012).

Their level of monitoring is also high and their emergency preparations are adequate. They note that the animals have not been used to research previously and indicate that the animals will only be affected for twelve weeks.

The applicants have been working with animals for over fifteen years and have the appropriate background training and experience necessary to conduct the procedures laid out in the application.

After considering all the above, I believe that the application should be approved after the minor changes concerning dosages, needle gauges, and AEC members have been made.

Reference List

BBC 2012, . Web.

Boston University 2011, Administration of drugs and experiential compounds in mice and rats. Web.

Festing, S. & Wilkinson, R. 2007,’The ethics of animal research’, European Molecular Biology Organization reports, Vol. 8 no. 6, pp. 526–530

Heidenreich, B. 2010, . Web.

Nuffield Council on Bioethics 2012, Ethical issues. Web.

Rose, M. & Grant, E. 2010, Australia’s ethical framework for animals used in research and teaching. Web.

2012, Animal welfare and the 3 Rs. Web.

Streba, C. T. 2012, ‘Of mice and ethics’, Current Health Sciences Journal, Vol. 38 no. 1. Web.

UCSF 2008, The institutional animal care and use committee. Web.

Whittome, R 2008, Ten top tips for animal ethics application success. Web.

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