Ethical Dilemma of Animal Testing in Medicine


The whole history of humanity is inseparable from the history of man’s relationship with the animals, both wild and domestic. In this regard, the issue of animal testing causes many contradictory reactions. The main types of experiments conducted on animals include: fundamental research, biomedical research, product testing, genetic engineering, education and training. However, animal testing is used in most biomedical researches, and much attention should be paid to this issue. In most cases, animal testing is not morally acceptable because it is simply not necessary.

To prove this, the main arguments used by vivisection defenders should be considered and counterarguments to each common misconception should be explained.

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Argument 1: Animal Testing Plays a Crucial Role in the Research of Medicaments

Counterarguments: it is worth mentioning that the accuracy of experiments on animals is 5-25%, and the accuracy of the tests on cultures of human cells is 90%. So, animal testing is rather invalid and ineffective. As an example, it should be mentioned that in the 1956-1957, many expectant mothers took the new drug for pregnant women to relieve toxemia. However, they gave birth to children with terrible physical defects. At that moment, tests on animals were quite successful; infants of rats treated with prohibitive dose had all paws. Widespread aspirin, useful for people, cause fetal defects in rats and mice, and cats get serious changes in the composition of blood. Ibuprofen, even in very small doses, causes renal failure in dogs.

Smoking was not considered the cause of cancer during a very long time. Benzene was not considered a harmful substance since it did not cause leukemia in animals. Although arsenic poisoned people long ago, it was not considered a carcinogen until 1977. Asbestos did not show adverse effects on animals, although in humans it causes cancer. Oral contraceptives sometimes cause the formation of blood clots in women, while in the dogs these drugs reduce the blood’s ability to form clots.

During the process of the development of radial keratotomy (surgery to improve vision) on rabbits, microsurgeons concluded that it can be applied to humans. However, the first people who underwent such an operation became blind. The fact is that the rabbit’s cornea can regenerate from the inside, while the human one only from outside. Now, such surgeries are performed on the outside layer of the cornea.

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Dosage of isoproterenol to treat asthma has been tested on animals. Nevertheless, 3500 asthmatics died in Great Britain as a result of an overdose of drugs. The drug domperidone entered the market to relieve nausea and vomiting in patients. However, in humans, it causes malfunction and even heart rhythm breaks. The dogs did not have any problems with this drug even when the dose was increased by 70 times.

Medicine for weight loss based on fenfluramine caused the disruption of the heart valves in humans. At the same time, it improves heart work in animals. Digitalis plant is used in medicine for centuries for the treatment of heart diseases. However, drugs are not made on the basis of digitalis since in animals it causes a strong increase of blood pressure (Sayed-Ahmed, Atwa, Younis and Zeidan 2).

Although almost every medicine is tested on animals, each year in the US, 100,000 people die and another two million suffer from serious illnesses as a result of taking these “proven” drugs. In the UK, each year 70,000 people die or become seriously ill because of the side effects of the medications tested on animals. All over the world, deaths from drug reactions rank the third position after a heart attack and a stroke. If the pharmaceutical industry changes animal experiments to tests and quantum pharmacology, the medication will be much more secure for a person. Therefore, modeling human diseases in animals is not necessary, and the question of its effectiveness should be raised.

Argument 2: There Are No Alternatives for a Medical Student to Get Knowledge except for Animal Testing

Counterarguments: In fact, there is a great number of alternatives to animal testing. They include three-dimensional models, computer programs, interactive DVDs, videos, tissue culture and cell bodies of animals that died of natural causes (Franco 261). At this point, lawsuits initiated by students who have compassion for animals have become quite common. Some students have even been compensated for non-pecuniary damage (record is 90,000 dollars). At the same time, clinical practice plays a huge role: students observe how experienced doctors treat sick animals, then assist during operations and other procedures, and after this begin to operate under the control of specialists. For example, Harvard University offers students a practicum on cardiac anesthesia. Students observe operations on hearts. Due to this practicum, experiments on dogs were stopped.

In this case, instead of killing healthy animals, they help to treat an animal that really needs veterinary care. Thus, clinical practice on already dead animals that died a natural death is even more effective.

Argument 3: In Case of Industrial Cultivation in the Laboratory Animals Do Not Suffer Because They Never See Another Lifestyle

Counterarguments: It should be mentioned that such animals cannot realize the most basic instincts, and this causes them immense suffering. Even those animals that find themselves in the cage from birth feel the need to move. Cattle and pack animals experience depression due to the fact that they live alone, in isolation, or if there are too many similar animals around them since they are unable to interact with the other members of the pack. Furthermore, all animals kept in such a way suffer from boredom to such an extent that they develop stereotypic behavior. Therefore, the use of such animals is rather immoral.

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Argument 4: Anyone Can Become a Good Doctor Without Taking Vivisection

The counterargument to this statement brings the most important thought against animal testing in medicine. Doctor is not just a profession; it is the symbol of compassion and humanity calling to help the weak people in the fight against the disease. A real doctor is able to give hope, to inspire and give the desire to live. Such a person has a peculiar power over the patient. At the same time, love for the people, humanism, and a desire to help must be the main motivating factor to work for any doctor. These three characteristics make from a man with medical education the doctor-healer; from the encyclopedia full of medical facts in the head they make a fighter who fights against the disease for the patient’s life. At the same time, there is a danger that the doctor who tests animals, torturing them and coolly observing their reactions in order to obtain the result, loses this capacity for empathy and willingness to fight for the life of another person Silk, Hampton and Brown 325). Modern society can be characterized with a high level of indifference, testing more than 100 million animals (Doke and Dhawale 1). In the future, it can only develop its callousness and indifference, which is an undesirable fact in medicine that is able to deprive medicine of its future.


Animal testing in medicine is widely used all over the world. However, its role in the research of medicaments is too exaggerated as the accuracy of experiments on animals is rather low, and the accuracy of the tests on cultures of human cells is much higher. It is almost useless for research, and it has a lot of alternatives that a medical student can use. Besides, it is cruel since such animals cannot realize the most basic instincts, and it is harmful because it makes the future doctor indifferent to someone’s suffering. So, it is not just unnecessary, it is even harmful and not morally acceptable.

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