Scientists seek to relieve suffering through research

April 24, 2000

No one likes to think about pain and distress. Fortunately, health researchers and laboratory animal medicine specialists not only think about this serious subject, but also work every day to find ways to alleviate and prevent suffering in both people and animals.

Despite amazing improvements that science and technology have already made in our lives and the promise of far greater medical advancements in the future, significant questions still remain unanswered about the nature of pain and distress. As a result, to help the countless people and animals afflicted by diseases, injuries and other painful conditions, scientists must continue to study the cause and consequences of pain and chronic stress. These studies also help to identify pain and distress that occurs unintentionally in animal laboratories. Their studies seek to better understand differences in individual experiences, and the best ways to evaluate, treat and ultimately avoid the negative effects of pain and distress. Laboratory animals are an essential part of the investigative process.

Scientists have long been committed to providing the most humane and ethical care to research animals that contribute to medical progress. Fulfilling that commitment is necessary to maintain research quality as well as to comply with existing legal requirements. For these reasons, when laboratory animals are unavoidably exposed to pain or distress, this suffering must be recognized and eliminated or minimized as much as possible. With the ongoing study of pain and better understanding of the mechanisms involved, the care and treatment of laboratory animals, like that of human patients, will continue to improve.

In order to encourage more humane and responsible care, over the past several decades the Scientists Center for Animal Welfare (SCAW) and several other national organizations have focused on developing and sharing with the research community comprehensive information on the humane treatment of laboratory animals. This ever-growing body of knowledge is exchanged at professional meetings, in electronic databases and through other information resources provided by a host of organizations concerned about animals.

As part of this process, and in preparation for possible further revisions to existing federal requirements for maintaining laboratory animal well-being and minimizing any pain or distress that research may necessarily entail, the following major initiatives are planned in the next several months: The complex issue of assessment and alleviation of pain and distress has been and continues to be the focus of many publications, seminars and studies within the laboratory animal community. Over 50 years of scientific efforts help assure that all research animals benefit from the highest standards of care from scientists and the veterinary specialists who care for -- and about -- the laboratory animals that make medical progress possible.

Americans For Medical Progress

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