For the Greater Good

screen grabFor the Greater Good
Animals & Research, a Five-part Series

A five-part series featured in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer highlighting the work of professionals who are involved with animals and research.
Download the complete series as a pdf file or read single articles online.  
Booklet put together by the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research

Most of what we know about using animals in medical research comes from people who oppose it. Today the Post-Intelligencer begins a five-part series looking at the issue from the other side.

Today and this week in the Opinion section, Northwest physicians and researchers discuss why, despite vehement objections, there's value in using animals in medical research.

This is a controversial topic for many reasons.

For one thing, most of us have or have had pets. Stories of how animals are abused, whether they are true or embellished, spark our anger and sympathy.

Some in society want to end the practice of using animals for medical research. Others want to grant to animals the same rights in law enjoyed by humans. In the extreme, still others believe violence is morally justified in the name of animal rights.

Last year, animal rights activists damaged a Washington State University research facility in Puyallup. At the University of Minnesota, a research venture into Alzheimer's disease that had been in progress for decades was damaged by animal rights activists; complex work was lost forever.

The animal rights movement is well-funded. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, for example, had a $14 million budget in 1998. Other animal rights groups also enjoy budgets in the millions of dollars.

Use of animals in medical research is well-supported with both public and private money. But scientists and physicians have been reluctant to join the debate over use of animals, largely because so many in society accept the use of animals to promote human health and sophisticated advances in medical treatments. And most scientists would prefer to do their research rather than devote time to public relations work promoting their endeavors.

The P-I is publishing this series of contributed essays so readers can hear firsthand from the men and women who work in the field. It was put together through the offices of Susan Adler, executive director of the Washington Association for Biomedical Research. More information about the organization may be obtained at the association's web site:

-- Samuel R. Sperry, P-I associate editor/editorial page

Part 1: Unlocking the secrets of genetic disease through animal research
by Joseph W. Eschbach, M.D., president, Northwest Association for Biomedical Research.

Part 2: Improving medical treatments for animals
by Patrick R. Gavin, D.V.M., Ph.D., professor and chairman of Veterinary Clinical Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, Pullman.

Part 3: Animals are key to discovering new medicines
by Lawrence Corey, M.D., Professor of laboratory medicine and head of the virology division, University of Washington School of Medicine.

Part 4: Ethics of using animals in research
by Rev. Delmas Luedke, manager for Spiritual Care at Swedish Medical Center, Seattle.

Part 5: How research animals live
by Cynthia Pekow, D.V.M., and clinical assistant professor, Department of Comparative Medicine, University of Washington.

NWABR Curriculum Guide to Accompany the For the Greater Good Series (pdf format)
The curriculum guide includes a 5-lesson unit outlining the use of models in both science and ethics, and provides resources for exploring the use of animals in research.

Examining the Relationships Between Humans and Animals
Students consider their position on the relationship between humans and animals, first individually, then as a group. This process allows for the examination of the currently held assumptions of students, as well as for the analysis of changes that occur as a result of the subsequent lessons.

Models in Science
Diabetes case study scenarios are used to introduce the concept of models and the need for scientific models in research. Discussion highlights the need for understanding biomedical research and the role of bioethics. Students use ‘research process’ cards to try to ascertain the overall pathway for drug development, and reflect on their understanding of the process.

Models in Ethics
Students are introduced to ethical principles, as well as a bioethical decision-making model.  They work through the model with a familiar example, and then complete the first sections of the model as applied to the question of the use of animals in biomedical research.

For the Greater Good
Students are assigned one of the five stakeholder perspectives (physician, veterinary oncologist, biomedical researcher, spiritual leader, or laboratory animal veterinarian.) Before reading the articles, they imagine the issues that would be of concern to each perspective.  They then read the appropriate article and summarize the main points, taking note of the degree to which they anticipated the important issues. They meet in small groups to share the perspectives of the articles and begin to ‘formulate the facts’ for their decision-making model.

Letters and Opinions
Each student follows a particular thread of responses and opinions to the articles. Students share what they have read with each other and complete the ‘formulate the facts’ section of their decision-making model. They clarify what they have learned so far, and what more they would like to know. Alternate strategies for presenting opposing opinions are also provided as optional lessons.

Culminating assessment

  • Decision-making model based on personal position - Students finish the decision-making model. They formulate several options and weigh the relative merits of each, using ethical principles as well as an understanding of scientific processes. Students’ work is assessed according to thoroughness and thoughtful completion and by the rationale presented for the final decision.
  • Letter to the Editor - Students complete a letter to the editor using the decision-making model as a starting point. The letter is assessed according to appropriate use of language, as well as to the use of specific scientific examples to make a persuasive statement.

Field test teachers recommended this unit prior to dissection studies or other examples of use of animals in the classroom.