Dogs are commonly used for cardiac research and many experiments were performed in an attempt to develop an artificial mitral valve. However, vivisectors were hampered because the heart valves almost always produced fatal blood clots in these animals. These results delayed progress because surgeons were deterred from carrying out human trials (3).
Like other vivisectors working in the field, Starr and Edwards encountered the familiar problem of blood clots but eventually decided on a “caged-ball' type of valve. Other designs always killed the animals and even the caged-ball device killed 6 of the 7 dogs used to test it. For some reason, however, one dog did survive for some months.
Fortunately, Starr and Edwards decided to test the caged-ball valve in human trials where it proved more successful. They discovered that in contrast to the dog experiments, blood clotting was not a problem in human patients. Starr and Edwards concluded that “the marked propensity of the dog to thrombotic occlusion or massive embolization from a mitral prosthesis is not shared by the human being.” (4)
There are dozens more examples like this in the medical literature but these three cases clearly highlight the danger of relying on animal experiments. Animal experiments not only harm animals, it can also put people at risk. It should therefore be denounced on both moral and scientific grounds.
In conclusion, medical scientists should adopt the same high standards of behaviour that we expect from physicians, above all, they should undertake to “do no harm” during their research. By using humane methods of investigation, they would not only save animals but provide a safer approach to medical research and healthcare.
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