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Essay About Using Animals for Medical Research — 24 Comments

  1. Hi Dee — I’m sure what you say is true: that she was a one-of-a-kind, inspirational teacher to many in your challenging – and harrowing – profession.

    As to your comment, Dr. Nuland also writes that the hope for a ‘good and peaceful death’ is usually a delusion. That dying, more often than not, is as bad as it gets.

    But then he goes and contradicts himself.

    In one of his chapters, he describes what violent death may be like. He writes about a little girl who was stabbed to death. Strangely, her expression as she bled to death was (to quote him) one of ‘surprise,’ not of ‘agony.’ Her heart kept beating throughout the attack, during which she was stabbed repeatedly. But even her mother who saw the event, instead of collapsing with heart failure fell into a momentary trance, as she described it afterwards – a quietude like the peace in the heart of a hurricane.

    The nature writer Loren Eiseley observed the same phenomenon in animals being torn to bits. I also saw a photo once in the Nat’l Geographic of a wildebeest calf gazing off into the distance and standing peacefully still as lions clung to its back, sinking in their claws and fangs. The calf, read the caption, was out of it, ‘benumbed by shock.’ Have also read stories of soldiers who in the heat of combat feel no pain when they’re blown apart.


    You would know about this (though it’s all a Rosetta Stone to me): Dr. Nuland wrote that endorphins are a natural morphine released into the bloodstream when the wounds or illness are mortal – or nearly mortal, as in the case of shock. A small mercy, if it’s true. But I’m not convinced.

    As his life neared its end, I saw my father struggling to breathe, and ran into the corridor, yelling for a nurse. A few seconds later, my brain slid into a twilight-haze, a near-painless detachment as he lay drowning. So maybe this hormone lessens suffering? Don’t know that it did a thing for him, but what was left of my mind was deadened by ‘Nature’s Novocain’ – whatever it was. Which wore off the moment he died.

  2. Michael: You missed my satire. I deliberately said ‘what are they GOOD for’ to go after Dee who dismissed birds as being ‘omly USEFUL’ for killing off bugs and weeds. I deplore the use of animals.
    Dee – I suspected you were telling off someone – that you, too, for all your love for cats (which I share) have a hard time to see them kill their prey.

    As for EKR: I was interested in your quotation and your comments re how much you enjoyed her lecture years ago. Unfortunately, I’m unable to add much to this. I read only one of her books ‘way back when,’ and she came across as a brilliant thanatologist – likely the foremost in her field. Can only, therefore, tell you what little else I know or have read about her, which is next to nothing.

    In the latter years of her career, her colleagues said she became fascinated with what they dismissed as ‘paranormal phenomena.’ I.e., she claimed to be ‘in touch’ with her patients who had died. Who knows? — maybe she was. But it caused a loss of confidence in her credibility as a scientist.

    I also read that she became extremely irritable and unhappy in her old age. For which who could blame her?

    Final comment: I would strongly disrecommend her work as advisable reading for anyone losing a family member. When my father was dying, I checked out two of her books from the library: photo-essays, b & w close-ups of her patients, all of whom looked gruesome in their suffering. Gruesome, that is, to a layperson, though the sight might not have bothered a health care professional. Whether or not, I was sickened by the photos. In my opinion, anyone already grieving over the suffering and impending death of a family member should give EKR a wide berth. Even her one book I read was ghastly: I still remember a passage describing the ’emesis’ oozing from the mouth of a corpse. And, again, the photos – given my state of mind when I saw them – were as bad or worse than photos of Hitler’s camps.

    I’m only, however, describing my own reaction to her books, which isn’t meant to demean her lifetime of caring and kindness in working with the dying.

    c fou

    fect), and glad to hear your heart isn’t stone.
    Re Eliz. Kubler Ross: I was interested in your coment

    • Thanks, Sylvia.
      No harm intended.

      We can just agree to differ in our opinions of EKR.

      I saw her from the healthcare prospective and learned a lot from her about helping dying patients make a peaceful transition.
      She never discarded the grief that family members were experiencing, but her focus was on the patient themselves. They were the ones that were dying.

      To you and, I’m sure many others, some pictures would be gruesome.
      All I can really say is that I’ve seen a lot of death, and it’s not good most of the time.
      Cancer patients, in particular, waste away and suffer so.

  3. Dr. Ross, who didn’t adjust to old age very well, had often written that cancer was nature’s way of flushing out the old to make room for the new. In his book How We Die, Dr. Sherwin Nuland, a scholar who could write, said the same: we see death as an ‘aberration’ to be overcome.

    His description of metastasis is stark. It’s tragic when cancer carries off children and other victims still relatively young. But barring the imperatives of agonizing love and agonizing fear, what is the point of trying to slow its progress when an aged body’s defenses are depleted? In our prime of life, millions of white blood cells eject a splinter from our finger. With age, they die off.

    Will cancer be conquered? Though not even their space suits and helmets protect aid workers from dying of ebola, scientists claim to be tailoring viruses that zoom in on and explode different types of cancer cells. Affordable? For maybe two percent of the population.

    Does cancer research resemble the slow death cats inflict on birds? Probably. But who among us with brisk moral values wouldn’t ‘support the predation’ of certain animals? After all, other than dying, what are they good for, that disagreeable welter of lab rats, guinea pigs, rabbits and – while we’re at it – why not broaden the definition to include birds – ‘especially birds’ – and an ever-widening array of animals nearly as ‘useless’ to the earth as we ourselves are, though lagging far behind us in our genius for destruction?


    Mourning the broken balance, the hapless prostration of the earth
    Under man’s hand and their minds,
    The beautiful places killed like rabbits to make a city,
    The spreading fingers, the slime-threads
    And spores: my own coast’s obscene future: I remember the
    Future, and the last man dying
    Without succession under the confident eyes of the stars.
    It was a moment’s accident,
    The race that plagued us; the world resumes its old lonely immortal
    Splendor . . . . .

    [Robinson Jeffers]

    (I’m being mean to you Dee, and wrongly so, I certainly hope, as I would expect you’re unusually kind and pained by the suffering of all animals. If I do you an injustice, perhaps you’ll forgive me. It’s just that I cried to read your remark in the USFWS post.)

    • Does cancer research resemble the slow death cats inflict on birds?

      Not sure you are correct here Sylvia Ann. Cats kill birds with a bite to the neck which kills them quickly. Domestic cats sometimes “play” with prey, usually mice, because they are unsure and don’t want to be bitten so they play safe and bat the mice around rather than kill with the nape bite. This looks like playing with prey but I don’t believe it is.

      I don’t think we will ever cure cancer because it is trying to cure death. But the cancer research business is too valuable to stop. It is a beautiful money maker.

    • Sylvia, not sure what upset you but am very sorry.
      Went back to read and suspect that is the remark I made about birds.
      If so, just know that remark was just my way of sticking it to Woody.
      Not what I truly feel.

    • After all, other than dying, what are they good for, that disagreeable welter of lab rats, guinea pigs, rabbits

      Not sure what you are trying to say but it is not wise to ask if animals are good for anything. That isn’t the point. We all exist and all of us had no choice if we existed or not. There is no purpose to life other than surviving. All animals including human animals should have certain rights and as far as I am concerned they should all be equal rights.

      • I’m just sick to death of Animals being Tested on. How much longer does it need to continue. By Low Life’s I mean People that have caused serious Harm to animals. Why should a Kitten Or Puppy have to pay for treatment for someone else.

  4. Will not go here. Could blow away a week banging out views on animal experimentation. The garden needs work.

    As for ‘cancer research’ -‘A cure for cancer will be the worst misfortune to befall the human race.’ [Elizabeth Kubler Ross]

    • I so loved that woman, Sylvia.
      Had the pleasure of hearing her speak in 1971.

      Please elaborate on your above quote. I don’t think I ever read or heard that.

      “Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from.”
      Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

  5. Good points which indicate it all pretty much a waste of money. But in the meantime lots of people get big salaries and that’s all that matters to them. The people who shower them with money need to get their heads screwed back on.

  6. Hi Michael. That’s what I believe.
    Ruth. That’s pretty scary but not surprising. People and animals don’t seem matter to them, until it’s the turn of those jokers to get cancer. It’s the same with heart disease. None of the dietary advice or medications helps much and can actually cause more harm. The advice to reduce cholesterol levels to prevent heart disease is complete hogwash because it obviously doesn’t help in the last bit. it’s like advising the managers of an oil refinery that has a lot of oil fires that the remedy is to cut the quantity of oil in the tanks by 3/4 when the real cause is faulty electrical wiring or faulty construction.

    • I’ve just been reading today that older people are being denied medication for certain illnesses as it’s too expensive. So if by some miracle Cancer Research UK DID find a cure, but we know they never will whilst torturing animals, it would only be for the rich who could afford to pay for it.

      • Yes, the NHS is finally realising that they can’t afford anything and everything. There is a limit and at some time nature has to take its course. The drug companies who animal test create drugs and treatments that the taxpayer can’t afford. This is another reason why animal testing is hard to justify.

      • Yes, all big business.
        I believe that many cures for many maladies should have been found long ago.
        But, researchers, doctor, and pharmaceutical companies don’t want that.

        • It is like the big petrochemical companies such as Shell and BP buying up companies making highly efficient engines and motor cars and then shutting the business down to keep up demand for gas (petrol).

  7. Despite the generral acceptance in the scientific community that animal testing is useful for proving the safety of new medicines, There are examples of that method failing. It even fails when testing a veterinary medicine on animals. For example the antibiotics Baytril and Convenia have proved deadly to animals. The danger of these 2 medications surfaced very quickly after their introduction which indicates their testing was just a joke.
    The testing of Aspirin and Paracetamol on animals would only produce sick or dead animals. Personally I feel testing on animals is nothing more that observing the legal requirements for acceptance and the actual results may differ from those stated in order to gain acceptance. That would explain why dangerous medicines get into general use.

    • I feel testing on animals is nothing more that observing the legal requirements for acceptance

      I guess you mean that the testing on animals is done to simply tick the regulatory boxes and get the product on the market.

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