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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
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 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
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Animal welfare, Bioethics, Animal testing, Medical ethics, Medical research, Experiment, Ethics, Animal rights, Cruelty to animals, Outline of ethics
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