The Ethics Surrounding The Use of Animals In Clinical Trials

The use of animals in the trials of medicines, cosmetics and other equipment for use by humans has always been a controversial topic. In recent years, activism from groups such as PETA has brought this problem to the forefront of the public eye.

The main arguments against the use of trials on animals stem from the idea that if we are testing goods for use on humans we should subject the trials to humans rather than animals. Many also disapprove of the conditions animals are kept in, which include small boxes. A variety of trials also involves inducing animals with a particular disease and/or inhibiting their food and water intake to observe a response to additional stimuli. After successful campaigning, there are now stricter regulations on the environment an animal is kept in, which animals can be used. Many companies have to get clearance from the home office to trial on animals and as part of this clearance have to disclose the nature of their trial, how many animals they will use and the basic procedure which is then reviewed by a panel. These laws and regulations have proven to be successful in a number of first world countries, however, they are difficult to enforce in third world countries

Those who are pro the use of animal testing often speak of the supplementary benefits of trials on animals before trials on humans. One argument is a reduction in human casualties. If we test on animals before going to human trials any adverse reactions to the medication/trial conditions can be noted and it can be modified for human use. This is another area of controversy and many argue that animals have equal rights to humans and as they are unable to choose to take part in these trials, they should not be subjected to them. At present, a large percentage of trials are first trialed on animals before moving to the next phase. Many people believe that trialing is a necessary evil and is needed for the greater good of humanity. Some pro trial advocates are against trials for cosmetics as they are not a necessity but are pro using trials to test medications.




The Ethics of Abortion

In recent news, women of Northern Ireland are now able to get free abortions on the NHS in Britain. At present, in Northern Ireland, abortions are only allowed if the mother’s life is in danger or if there is a serious risk to her mental or physical health. Hundreds of women are forced to travel from Northern Ireland to England in order to get an abortion, this is costly and can be incredibly difficult for women.

In many religions and cultures, people believe that abortions should not be allowed unless there are extreme circumstances, for example, if a woman has been raped. Many believe that abortions result in an unlawful killing of a person and can be compared to murder. However, with current laws, in the UK abortions can be carried out until 24 weeks, but in some circumstances, it can be carried out later.

In the UK we are incredibly fortunate to have abortions available on the NHS, in countries like America many women are forced to carry out abortions by themselves at home or at a reduced price locally, but this is very dangerous.

At present, there is no scientific consensus as to when life begins so one can not truly say that women who want an abortion are killing or endangering a child as there is still a debate as to when life begins. Many pro-life advocates believe that life starts at fertilization, others believe it starts when limbs appear or when a major organ system assimilates.

However, the rights of the mother should not be put under the rights of an unborn fetus, The woman is alive and well and we should not undermine her rights and ability to make decisions by putting a zygote in front of her life and decisions. In addition, should we really bring a child into an overpopulated world and one in which its mother was forced to conceive it? Human rights violations in terms of the fetus are dependent on the age of the fetus, below 24 weeks the rights of the mother should be prioritized. However as the mother comes closer to full term, we must consider the human rights violations brought about by the death of a fetus.

Many pro-life supporters believe that abortion is a form of infanticide, which is the unlawful killing of children. Many countries are rife with female infanticide which is gender-based killing, People often kill female babies as traditionally, women were forced to live with their husband’s parents leaving their own parents without someone to care for them. This problem is especially prevalent in China after the one-child policy, which prompted many to kill and abandon female babies in order to try to conceive a male. In some countries, males are also more desired in rural areas as they are seen to be better workers. Abortions on the basis of sex are not lawful and in most cases, the sex of the child cannot be found before 24 weeks.



The Ethics Of Vaccination

Vaccination is a form of artificial active immunity. This is when the production of the bodies own antibodies is stimulated by an outside source, an immune response is induced through injetcion of a dead or inactive form of a pathogen to stimualte antibody produciton. In the majority of cases this prevents an individual from suffering from the symptoms of the disease.

Vaccination leads to the production of memory cells from B Cells, these memory cells remain in the blood after infection and allow for a greater, more rapid response to future infection with the pathogen. This means that in the future if infected the body will be quickly be able to destroy the pathogen preventing the individual from the full extent of the symptoms.

However, vaccination may not eliminate disease in those with defective immune systems, where individuals may develop the disease and go on to infect those around them. In addition, pathogens mutuate so frequently, that by the time a vaccine is created, it may be rendered ineffective. This mutuation involves the changing of viral antigens as new antigens on the surface of a virus will not be recognised by the vaccine, this is known as antigenic variability.

In some cases, individuals may reject vaccination due to religious, ethical or even medical reasons. This occured with the MMR vaccine, which eventually led to a large number of infant deaths, due to a public scare created by a lack of knowledge and understanding.

This being said, if someone does reject a vaccine, should we be able to force them to have the vaccine? Those who are not vaccinated make the world more dangerous for those in the community at a high risk – children, the terminally ill and the elderly. By enforcing vacciantion, those who are physically unable to have the vaccine will be to some extent protected from being infected by unvaccination individuals. But, is this not a direct violation of human rights? Everyone should be able to choose whether ot not they themselves or those in their care should be vaccinated.

The ability to opt out of vaccination isn ot the only ethical issue that surrounds vaccination, another issue is the testing of vaccines. At present the production and development is tested on animals such as mice, and after this human trials are used. To what extent should a person be asked to accept such a risk for public health? In most cases, the first few screenings and attempts at vacciantion lead to a large array of different side effects. Animal testing has always been a taboo subject, but since vaccines are so essential, shouldn’t we use the Earth’s resources to protect out own species, or is this simply the selfish nature of the human race? Another problem with the trialing of vaccines is the uknown health risks posed to the wider community. In countries that are rife with a particular disease is it morally acceptable to trial a new vaccine with unkown health risks even if the country will gain a lot if the trial is succesful.

In addition, many argue that vaccination programmes are too expensive to be carried out fully. A vaccination programme requires a sufficient quantity of the vaccine to be produces, trained staff for administration, a means of producing, storing and transporting the vaccine. Surely, if most of the population has had the vaccine and the disease is mostly eradicated, the money should be used to treat other diseases? However, this leaves those who are not vaccinated susceptible.

Finally, some individuals may be unable to have a vaccine due to personal health risks, but should every single health risk be taken into account when producing a vaccine for the whole population. Which diseases are we required to accomodate for? Surely, the aim should be to vaccinate as large of a proportion of the population as possible.

In conclusion, the ethics surrounding vaccination has always been an area of interest in the wider community. The need to balance the advantages to the health of the population with economic, social and ethical views has proven to be difficult no matter which way you look at the issue.