Dr. Dan Hayes, James McGaugh and Dr. Lawrence Longo, have spent a good part of their lives probing the mysteries of human life. They contend, however, that there is a certain breed of the human species so inscrutable in its recklessness that they can't begin to fathom what makes it tick.
Hayes is a researcher for the American Cancer Society, Longo for Loma Linda University and McGaugh for UC Irvine. All three men experiment with laboratory animals in hopes of advancing medical science. But all three say the growing animal rights movement is throwing up obstacles now they never anticipated when they set out on their life's work. Many researchers, they say, are scared.
Hayes, who has been on the faculties of Harvard, Cornell, UCLA and USC, is now a professor of surgery and pediatrics at USC School of Medicine and director of education for the cancer center there. He expressed what most members of the medical community consider so obvious as to be beyond discussion, "All modern forms of cancer treatment, including surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are based either entirely or at some crucial point on some form of animal experimentation." Without animal research, doctors simply would not be able to treat many types of congenital and acquired heart disease, many major diseases of the central nervous system or diabetes, he said, adding that among other advances, animal experimentation has also contributed to medical science's understanding of birth defects and the development of antibiotics.
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All anyone who doubts the importance of animal research need do is to read accounts of virtually any recent medical advance, Hayes and others said. For example, a new technique to increase the amount of oxygen that blood can deliver to vital organs, which was announced last week--and embraced as a potential treatment for patients undergoing blood transfusions, organ transplants, and victims of stroke or heart failure--was developed through research on pigs, according to news accounts.
But now Hayes feels such research is seriously threatened. Animal rights activists have driven up the cost of research by making increased security necessary and by making laboratory animals harder to get, Hayes said. They have also destroyed experiments and research records, "which is just like destroying knowledge."
What really worries Hayes, though, is the effect that animal rights activists may have on the future of research. "They are so powerful, so influential, that they can seriously impair the career of a young investigator. . . . I've seen this happen, and I think it's a disaster. Many young investigators have given up research because of the activities of these people. . . . They're actually afraid that somebody will throw rocks through their windows at night or insult their children or wives."
In response to this activism, a number of professional organizations have launched a major counterattack to protect their respective realms.
Last year, for example, the American Psychological Assn. released a fat press packet including a reprint of an article from "American Psychologist." With its heart-wrenching photos of human suffering--for instance, it depicts a horribly malnourished child whose condition was reportedly alleviated by behavioral techniques developed in animal research--it is clearly meant to meet the animal rights movement's touching material head-on.
Individuals Step Forward
Individuals have also begun to step forward. Pat Van Dyke, a Canyon Lake school teacher, was sitting in a hospital room at Loma Linda University Medical Center, watching over her daughter, Mary, 8, when she decided to become involved in the animal rights debate. Her daughter, who was born with 22 handicaps, including a heart defect, spina bifida and a tethered spinal cord, had just undergone hip surgery.
From the hospital window, Van Dyke watched about 50 animal rights demonstrators protesting Dr. Leonard Bailey's controversial baboon-to-baby heart transplant. "It was very upsetting," she said. She immediately told a public relations man at the medical center that she'd be happy to make her own case public.
An insulin-controlled diabetic, Van Dyke said that she was "already well-versed on the importance of animal research. I knew that if it wasn't for (researchers) injecting a dog with insulin 60 years ago I wouldn't have insulin therapy . . . . My life would have ended 9 1/2 years ago, six months after I was diagnosed."
At least as important to Van Dyke, though, was the fact that her daughter's life, she believes, has been so vastly improved by surgical techniques developed through animal experimentation.