Editorial: Research and Your Right to Know
You remember Queenie, the Dalmatian mix who appeared on the cover of Good Medicine last year. After nearly a year of painful and distressing heart failure experiments, Queenie was killed by Wayne State University experimenters.
But Queenie’s story—and that of the animals still in Wayne State experiments—has taken a new and disturbing turn. First, the background: Experimenters at Wayne State forced Queenie to spend months on a treadmill, cut open her chest to implant devices and catheters into her arteries and veins, and reduced the blood flow to her kidneys to induce hypertension. Then they broke one of the devices implanted in her body. The device cracked a second time, and Queenie was killed the next day.
PCRM learned these facts through Queenie’s medical records, obtained through Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act in 2011. We also learned that hundreds of other animals experienced a similar fate and that, since 2001, at least $5 million of U.S. government funds had gone to these and similar dog experiments at Wayne State.
In September, PCRM’s associate director of research policy Ryan Merkley requested updated records about Wayne State’s heart experiments. On Nov. 26, PCRM received an e-mail with Wayne State’s answer. Not only did the university refuse to provide any more details on the experiments, it had also filed a lawsuit in the Wayne County circuit court to assert that it should be exempt from Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act. It aimed to bury any further details about its experiments, arguing that disclosures would be an “unwarranted invasion” of the “privacy” of the university’s researchers.
The university’s argument is thin. The fact is, the public has a clear-cut right to know what animals go through in research laboratories, how government research funds are spent, and how research on heart failure—a condition that affects a great many people—is being carried out. PCRM has responded to the university’s legal challenge with a counterclaim that the medical records of Wayne State’s publicly funded experiments on dogs are not “private” information.
Animal research laboratories have veiled themselves more and more, seeking to keep their procedures secret, their financial dealings obscure, and their animals out of sight. But not only does the public have a right to know about the experiments it is paying for; everyone benefits from a frank and open discussion about the real costs of animal experimentation and the alternatives that need to be implemented. The animals benefit, the public benefits, and science benefits, too.
Neal D. Barnard, M.D.
President of PCRM