Thursday, December 15, 2011

Institute of Medicine Approves Limited Use of Chimps in Research

The much-awaited Institute of Medicine consensus report on the use of chimpanzees in biomedical and behavioral research is here. Bottom line: chimps may be used in biomedical research if no other models are available, if it would be unethical to conduct the research in humans, and if failing to do the research would significantly slow progress toward control, prevention or cure of a debilitating or fatal disease. The panel split on whether chimps could be used in hepatitis research. Comparative genomic and behavioral research should be permitted, the report says, only if it would yield otherwise unattainable insights into behavior, genomics or mental health; and may only be conducted on acquiescent animals using minimally invasive techniques that minimize pain and distress.

The report is bound to upset animal-rights activists; but it also appears to be full of arguments for much sharper limits on, and better oversight of, chimpanzee use in research.

Update: I neglected to note that the report says, in no uncertain terms, that most current chimp research is unnecessary, and fails to meet the guidelines I mentioned above.

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