To model human head injury in baboons seems quite cruel, but many of the medical advances in the past century have happened because of animal research.

by | Sep 16, 2022 | Nursing


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Thomas Gennarelli’s research on human head injuries involving adult baboons was one that involved many ethical issues. These issues arose after the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) raided the laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in 1984 and stole 32 audiovisual tapes that recorded the experiments. Seventy hours of the tapes were condensed into 25 minutes showing the abuses that occurred during these experiments. This was brought to light after People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) brought this up with Congress and ABC News. In defense, the researchers asserted that the baboons were sedated so that they wouldn’t feel pain upon injury, but the baboons struggled to free themselves indicating otherwise. Other disturbing instances included the use of profanity, performing unsterile surgery, and making fun of conscious baboons with broken arms ( Pence,2017).

It was later found that Gennarelli was guilty of 9 charges:” lack of anesthesia, inadequate supervision, poor training, inferior veterinary care, unnecessary multiple injuries to the same animals, smoking, statements in poor taste around animals, improper clothing, and overall “material failure to comply with the Public Health Service Animal Welfare Policy” (2017).

One ethical issue that stands out from this case is animals’ perception of pain. The sentence of baboons is uncertain, but even if they’re not as aware of their pain perception and memory as humans, this doesn’t mean that they suffer any less. Informed human subjects are much aware of the purposes and risks of a study, so they know what to expect. The consent process does not occur with animals and is unaware of the reason for their use in experiments, and thus, this unexpectantly and lack of awareness may impose more suffering on them (Pence,2017)

To model human head injury in baboons seems quite cruel, but many of the medical advances in the past century have happened because of animal research. Without animals, research would have to be done on humans, which would subject them to harm in many experiments ( Pence,2017). We should strive to minimize suffering and treat animal subjects as humanely as possible. Gennarelli’s research focuses on human head injuries, so to minimize pain as much as possible, the researchers should ensure that the baboons are completely sedated.

Pence, G.E. (2017). Medical Ethics: Accounts of ground-breaking cases (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill Education.

There is a specific research study where vaccines that are not approved for humans are used for animal testing purposes. “National and international regulations currently require that new medicines are tested on animals before being licensed for use. Around 5 million animals including mice, rats, fish, chickens, rabbits, dogs, and primates are used across the US for this purpose each year. “ (Medicines & Vaccines,2019). An ethical issue was that there was a degree of suffering physically and emotionally within the animals. What can be done to avoid these ethical issues or to lessen this is to not apply the same practice to other animals as it increases the chances of the degree of suffering to occur in other animals, To lessen pain, they may take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to help cope with the pain.

It’s difficult that whenever we try to pursue advancements in medicine, animals are used for the sake of humanity’s health. It’s clearly obvious that the majority of the world has compassion towards animals and we would want to provide the best quality of life for them as much as possible. While I am saddened that animals are being used in testing and research, they serve an essential purpose, and most medical advancements have happened because of animal testing ( Pence,2017). To ease our moral conscience, we need to determine the necessity of the problem being studied and how useful the information from animal studies is to human studies, as stated in the source you provided (“Medicine and Vaccines,” n.d.). We understand that to test vaccines, it must be done in a living system that is infected with a certain ill-causing agent, and inducing sickness in animals is more acceptable than doing it in humans. Because avoiding harm in humans takes utmost precedence over avoiding harm in animals, we need to do what we can to make animal research as ethical as possible. In addition to the suggestion you made about using NSAIDs, we can also sedate animals so that they’re not conscious to experience any not only physical but also psychological and emotional trauma.

Pence, G.E.(2017). Medical ethics: Accounts of ground-breaking cases (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill Education.

Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (n.d.). Medicine and vaccines. Retrieved from (Links to an external site.)

Humans have a better quality of life with the use of animals in scientific/medical research. Every day about 25 million mice are used globally in research into the development of treatments for diseases including malaria, heart disease, cancer, and aids (Holden, 2016). Rodents are 80% of our genes and have been described as the “perfect model organism” for human biology (Holden,2016).

Experiments should be used as humanely as possible but that’s not the case. The ethical issue in this research is the pain, distress, and isolation that animals have to go through for an experiment. Humans can have a decision to consent while animals do not. Without animals, research would have to be done on humans which would be subject to harm in many experiments (Pence,2017).

Animals could be replaced in experiments by the use of cultures or test tube-based experiments can be conducted for further research study instead, to avoid ethical issues.

Realistically speaking, I don’t think animals will be completely replaced considering the many advancements we’ve made in medicine and health because of animal research and testing (Pence,2017). I think animals should only be used when absolutely necessary and if the results from the study are likely to contribute to human studies. Otherwise, other alternatives can be used if their results can yield the same level or at least similar results. In addition to the suggestions you made, one alternative to animals being used in research is the use of computer models. Computer models allow simulations that can help predict possible biological toxic effects. Also, many ethical issues revolve around using higher vertebrates, so lower vertebrates, and invertebrates may be used. These organisms offer the advantages of shorter life cycles and simple anatomy ( Doke & Dhawale,2015).

Doke, S.K., & Dhawale, S.C.(2015). Alternatives to animal testing: A review DOI: (Links to an external site.
Pence, G.E. (2017). Medical ethics: Accounts of ground-breaking cases (8th ed.). New York, NY:

McGraw Hill Education.

Tough dilemma, right? If by chance, tomorrow, researchers shared they had a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Thank you to the research they have conducted over the past using monkeys, do you think then that those against animal research would feel differently? Explain.




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