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Research involving animals: the case for cutting edge ethics
24 January 2018 (online)
Research into homeopathy is undergoing a welcome period of growth driven by the increasing need to provide evidence for the therapy's effectiveness and mode of action.
In mainstream medicine animal-based research has become integral to the development of new drugs and medical procedures, despite only modest success in extrapolating findings in animals to humans. Homeopathy, based on provings conducted on human volunteers and on clinical confirmation of the similia principle, is not subject to such shortcomings. Nevertheless animals with artificially induced diseases are being used in homeopathic research in order to supplement existing knowledge and to demonstrate that homeopathy ‘works’ under laboratory conditions.
To date such research has encompassed a wide range of physical and psychological conditions and involved procedures that have caused suffering – often severe - in experimental animals. Whilst the rights, dignity and welfare of humans participating in homeopathic studies are safeguarded in line with standards laid down in the Declaration of Helsinki, international standards of protection for experimental animals vary widely and are markedly less stringent. Growing interest in homeopathy (and funding for research in this field) could lead to a rise in animal-based studies at a time when public trust in the regulations governing animal use in medical research is falling - and calls for more ethical and scientifically relevant alternatives are on the increase.
This presentation examines some of the scientific, political and legal issues relating to the use of animals in homeopathic research. It addresses the relative value of animal studies in evidence bases; societal drivers in the development of alternatives to animal experiments and the new EU directive on the protection of animals in scientific research. It also considers the implications for homeopathy's reputation as an ethical profession and highlights opportunities to demonstrate cutting edge ethics in the advancement of homeopathic knowledge.