The standard practice of using animals for research raises serious ethical questions ranging from the moral status of animals and whether they should be subjected to the harms and risks involved in research to the need or effectiveness of animal models and, specifically, whether certain animal models continue to be necessary in determining the safety of efficacy of new drugs and treatments. The Institute of Medicine recently assembled a committee, chaired by Jeff Kahn, M.D., M.P.H., to assess the necessity of the chimpanzee model in biomedical and behavioral research. The IOM Committee issued its report on December 15, 2011.
In response to this report and to consider other ethical challenges involved in using animals in research, the principal investigators on a project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), including KIE Senior Research Scholar Tom Beauchamp, hosted their second of a series of interdisciplinary meetings at the Kennedy Institute on May 3 and 4, 2012. Dr. Beauchamp was joined by co-principal investigators John Gluck, Ph.D., a faculty affiliate of the KIE, Hope Ferdowsian, M.D., M.P.H., Katalin Roth, M.D., J.D., and Neal Barnard, M.D. The other invited participants included Rebecca Dresser, J.D., Andrew N. Rowan, D.Phil., and other ethicists, lawyers, a primatologist, historian, and scientists.
The meeting entitled, “Applications of the Deliberations and Findings of the IOM Report on the Use of Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research,” began with an informative discussion with Dr. Kahn responding to questions from the participants on the key findings of the IOM report. Some of the other questions discussed during the meeting included: Does species matter? Why are there different sets of criteria for biomedical and behavioral research? What is the basis for claiming that chimpanzees can acquiesce and how does this relate to consent? What does the IOM report mean for other primates and other animals? As these questions suggest, the meeting was another meaningful occasion for the participants to directly address some of ethical challenges left open by the IOM report and pave the way for continued work on the NSF grant.