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To the Century Company of New York, in the pages
of whose magazine, then known as " Scribners
Monthly" the first of the following essays originally-
appeared in July, 1880, the thanks of the writer are
due for permission to re-publish in the present form.
For a like courtesy on the part of the proprietors of
Lippincott's Magazine, in which the second paper was
first published [Aug., 1884], the writer desires to make
due acknowledgment.




The first of the Essays following- appeared in
"Scribner's Monthly," in July, 1880; and imme-
diately became honored by the attention of the
Medical Press throughout the country. The aggres-
sive title of the paper, justified, in great measure,
perhaps, the vigor of the criticism bestowed. Again
and again the point was raised by reviewers that the
problem presented by the title, was not solved or
answered by the article itself.

At this day, it perhaps may be mentioned that the
question "Does Vivisection Pay?" was never
raised by the writer, who selected as his title the
single word "Vivisection." The more taking head-
line was affixed by the editor of the magazine as more
apt to arrest attention and arouse professional pug-
nacity. That in this latter respect it was eminent-
ly successful, the author had the best reason to re-
member. With this explanation which is made
simply to prevent future criticism on the same point
the old title is retained. If the present reader con-

pI7E -71


tinues the inquiry here presented, he will learn
wherein the writer believes in the utility of vivisec-
tion, and on the other hand, in what respects and
under what conditions he very seriously questions
whether any gains can possibly compensate the
infinitely great cost.

"What do you hope for or expect as the result of
agitation in regard to vivisection ? " recently inquired
a friend ; "its legal abolition ? "

' ' Certainly not, " was the reply.

"Would you then expect its restriction during the
present century ? "

" Hardly even so soon as that. It will take longer
than a dozen years to awaken recognition of any
evil which touches neither the purse nor personal
comfort of an American citizen. All that can be hoped
in the immediate future is education. Action will
perhaps follow when its necessity is recognized gen-
erally ; but not before."

For myself, I believe no permanent or effective
reform of present practices is probable until the
Medical Profession generally concede as dangerous
and unnecessary that freedom of unlimited experi-
mentation in pain, which is claimed and practiced
to-day. That legislative reform is otherwise un-
attainable, one would hesitate to affirm ; but it
assuredly would be vastly less effective. You must
convince men of the justice and reasonableness of a


law before you can secure a willing obedience.
Yielding to none in loyalty to the science, and
enthusiam for the Art of Healing, what standpoint
may be taken by those of the Medical Profession who
desire to reform evils which confessedly exist ?

I. We need not seek the total abolition of all ex-
periments upon living animals. I do not forget that
just such abolition is energetically demanded by
a large number of earnest men and women, who
have lost all faith in the possibility of restricting an
abuse, if it be favored by scientific enthusiasm.
''Let us take/' they say, "the upright and conscien-
tious ground of refusing all compromise with sin
and evil, and maintaining our position unflinchingly,
leave the rest to God." * This is almost precisely the
ground taken by the Prohibitionists in national poli-
tics ; it is the only ground one can occupy, provided
the taking of a glass of wine, or the performance of
any experiment, painless or otherwise, is of itself
an " evil and a sin. " There are those, however, who
believe it possible to oppose and restrain intemperance
by other methods than legislative prohibition. So
with the prohibition of vivisection. Admitting the
abuses of the practice, I cannot yet see that they are
so intrinsic and essential as to make necessary the
entire abolition of all physiological experiments

* Report of American Anti-Vivisection Society, Jan'y 30, 1888.


II. We may advocate (and I believe we should
advocate) the total abolition, by law, of all mutilating
or destructive experiments upon lower animals, involving
pain, when such experiments are made for the purpose
of public or private demonstration of already known
and accepted physiological facts.

This is the ground of compromise unacceptable,
as yet, to either party. Nevertheless it is asking
simply for those limitations and restrictions which
have always been conceded as prudent and fair by
the medical profession of Great Britain. Speaking of
a certain experiment upon the spinal nerves, Dr. M.
Foster, of Cambridge University, one of the leading
physiological teachers of England, says : "I have
not performed it and have never seen it done, " partly
because of horror at the pain necessary. And yet
this experiment has been performed before classes
of young men and young women in the Medical
Schools of this country ! Absolutely no legal restriction
here exists to the repetition, over and over again, of
the most atrocious tortures of Mantegazza, Bert and

* * *

This is the vivisection which does not "pay,"
even if we dismiss altogether from our calculation the
interests of the animals sacrificed to the demand for
mnemonic aid. For the great and perilous outcome
of such methods will be finally an atrophy of the


sense of sympathy for human suffering. It is seen
to-day in certain hospitals in Europe. Can other
result be expected to follow the deliberate inflic-
tion of prolonged pain without other object than to
see or demonstrate what will happen therefrom?
Will any assistance to memory, counterweigh the
annihilation or benumbing of the instinct of pity ?

Upon this subject of utility of painful experiments
in class demonstrations or private study, I would
like to appeal for judgment to the physician of the
future, who then shall review the experience of
the medical student of to-day. In his course of
physiological training, heorshe maybe invited to see
living animals cut and mutilated in various ways,
eviscerated, poisoned, frozen, starved, and by ingen-
ious devices of science subjected to the exhibition of
pain. On the first occasion such a scene generally
induces in the young man or young woman a signifi-
cant subjective phenomenon of physiological interest ;
an involuntary, creeping, tremulous sense of horror
emerges into consciousness, and is speedily re-
pressed. "This feeling," he whispers to himself,
"is altogether unworthy the scientific spirit in which
I am now to be educated ; it needs to be subdued.
The sight of this inarticulate agony, this prolonged
anguish is not presented to me for amusement. I
must steel myself to witness it, to assist in it, for the


sake of the good I shall be helped thereby to accom-
plish, some day, for suffering humanity."

Praiseworthy sentiments, these are, indeed. Are
they founded in reality ? No. The student who
thus conquers " squeamishness " will not see one fact
thus demonstrated at the cost of pain which was un-
known to science before ; not one fact which he
might not have been made to remember without this
demonstrative illustration ; not one fact saddest truth
of all that is likely to be of the slightest practical
service to him or to her in the multiplied and various
duties of future professional life. Why, then, are
they shown ? To help him to remember his lesson !
Admit the value to the student, but what of the cost?

In one of the great cities of China, I was shown,
leaning against the high wall of the execution ground,
a rude, wooden frame-work or cross, old, hacked, and
smeared with recent blood-stains. It was used, I was
told, in the punishment of extreme offenses ; the crim-
inal being bound thereto, and flayed and cut in every
way human ingenuity could devise for inflicting tor-
ture before giving an immediately mortal wound.
Only the week before, such an execution had taken
place ; the victim being a woman who had poisoned
her husband. A young and enthusiastic physician
whom I met, told me he had secured the privilege of
being an eye witness to the awful tragedy, that he
might verify a theory he had formed on the influence


of pain ; a theory perhaps like that which led to Man-
tegazza's crucifixion of pregnant rabbits with dolori
atrocissimi* Science here caught her profit from the
punishment of crime, but the gain would have been
the same had her interest alone been the object.
There is always gain, always some aid to memory ;
but what of the cost ?

It cannot be expected that any Medical College, of
its own accord and without outside pressure, will re-
strict or hamper its freedom of action. As a con-
dition of prosperity and success it cannot show less
than is exhibited by other medical schools ; it must
keep abreast of "advanced thought," and do and
demonstrate in every way what its rivals demon-
strate and do. There can be no question but that
there is to-day a strong public demand for continental
methods of physiological instruction. Who make this
demand ? You, gentlemen, students of medicine,
and they who follow in your pathway. This year it is
you who silently request this aid to your memory of
the physiological statements of your text books ;
another year, another class of young men and young
women, occupying the same benches, or filling the
same laboratory, repeats the demand for the same
series of illustrations. You, perhaps, will have gone
forward to take your places in active life, to assume
the real burdens of the medical profession. To those

* See Appendix, page 83.


succeeding years of thought, reflection and useful-
ness, let me appeal, respecting the absolute necessity
of all class demonstrations and laboratory work in-
volving pain. Postpone if you please, the ready
decision which, fresh from your class-room, you are
perhaps only too willing to give me to-day ; I do not
wish it. But some time in the future, after years have
gone by, remembering all you have seen and aided
in the doing, tell us if you can, exactly wherein you
received, in added potency for helping human suf-
ering and for the treatment of human ills, the equiva-
lent of that awful expenditure of pain which you
are now demanding, and which by unprotesting ac-
quiescence, you are to-day helping to inflict.

Boston, Mass.,
March, i88g.

[From Scribner's Monthly, July, 1880. )


The question of vivisection is again push-
ing itself to the front. A distinguished
American physiologist has lately come for-
ward in defense of the French experimenter,
Magendie, and, parenthetically, of his meth-
ods of investigation in the study of vital
phenomena. On the other hand, the Soci-
ety for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
made an unsuccessful attempt, in the New
York Legislature last winter, to secure the
passage of a law which would entirely abol-
ish the practice as now in vogue in our
medical schools, or cause it to be secretly


carried on, in defiance of legal enactments.
In support of this bill it was claimed that
physiologists, for the sake of " demonstrating
to medical students certain physiological
phenomena connected with the functions of
life, are constantly and habitually in the
practice of cutting up alive, torturing and
tormenting divers of the unoffending brute
creation to illustrate their theories and
lectures, but without any practical or bene-
ficial result either to themselves or to the stu-
dents, which practice is demoralizing to both
and engenders in the future medical practi-
tioners a want of humanity and sympathy for
physical pain and suffering." How far these
statements are true will be hereafter discussed ;
but one assertion is so evidently erroneous
that it may be at once indicated. No experi-
ment, however atrocious, cruel and, therefore,
on the whole, unjustifiable, if performed to
illustrate some scientific point, was ever with-
out "any beneficial result." The benefit
may have been infinitesimal, but every scien-
tific fact is of some value. To assert the


contrary is to weaken one's case by over-

Leaving out the brute creation, there are
three parties interested in this discussion.
In the first place, there are the professors
and teachers of physiology in the medical
colleges. Naturally, these desire no inter-
ference with either their work or their
methods. They claim that were the know-
ledge acquired by experiments upon living
organisms swept out of existence, in many
respects the science of physiology would be
little more than guesswork to-day. The
subject of vivisection, they declare, is one
which does not concern the general public,
but belongs exclusively to scientists and es-
pecially to physiologists. That the present cen-
tury should permit sentimentalists to interfere
with scientific investigations is preposterous.

Behind these stand the majority of men
belonging to the medical profession- Hold-
ing, as they do, the most important and inti-
mate relations to society, it is manifestly
desirable that they should enjoy the best
^y OF Tl


facilities for the acquirement of knowledge
necessary to their art. To most, the question
is merely one of professional privilege against
sentiment, and they cannot hesitate which
side to prefer. In this, as in other professions
or trades, the feeling of esprit de corps is ex-
ceedingly strong ; and no class of men likes
interference on the part of outsiders. To
most physicians it is wholly a scientific
question. It is a matter, they think, with
which the public has no concern ; if society
can trust to the profession its sick and dying,
they surely can leave to its feeling of humanity
a few worthless brutes.

The opinion of the general public is there-
fore, divided and confused. On the one
hand, it is profoundly desirous to make >
systematic and needless cruelty impossible ;
yet, on the other, it cannot but hesitate to
take any step which shall hinder medical
education, impede scientific discovery, or re-
strict search for new methods of treating
disease. What are the sufferings of an ani-
mal, however acute or prolonged, compared


with the gain to humanity which would re-
sult from the knowledge thereby acquired of
a single curative agent? Public opinion
hesitates. A leading newspaper, commenting
on the introduction of the Bergh bill, doubt-
less expressed the sentiment of most people
when it deprecated prevention of experiments
" by which original investigators seek to es-
tablish or verify conclusions which may be of
priceless value to the preservation of life and
health among human beings."

The question nevertheless confronts soci-
ety, and in such shape, too, that society
cannot escape, even if it would, the responsi-
bility of a decision. Either by action or in-
action the State must decide whether the
practice of vivisection shall be wholly abolish-
ed, as desired by some ; whether it shall be
restricted by law within certain limits and
for certain definite objects, as in Great Brit-
ain ; or whether we are to continue in this
country to follow the example of France and
Germany, in permitting the practice of phys-
iological experimentation to any extent de-


vised or desired by the experimentalist him-
self. Any information tending to indicate
which of these courses is best cannot be in-
opportune. Having witnessed experiments
by some of the most distinguished European
physiologists, such as Claude Bernard (the
successor of Magendie), Milne-Edwards and
Brown-Sequard ; and, still better (or worse,
as the reader may think), having performed
some experiments in this direction for pur-
poses of investigation and for the instruction
of others, the present writer believes himself
justified in holding and stating a pronounced
opinion on this subject, even if it be to some
extent, opposed to the one prevailing in the
profession. Suppose, therefore, we review
briefly the arguments to be adduced both in
favor of the practice and against it.

Two principal arguments may be advanced
in its favor.

i. It is undeniable that to the practice of
vivisection we are indebted for very much of
our present knowledge of physiology. This
is the fortress of the advocates of vivisection,


and a certain refuge when other arguments
are of no avail.

11. As a means of teaching physiological
facts, vivisection is unsurpassed. No teacher
of science needs to be told the vast supe-
riority of demonstration over affirmation.
Take for instance, the circulation of the
blood. The student who displays but a lan-
guid interest in statements of fact, or even in
the best delineations and charts obtainable,
will be thoroughly aroused by seeing the pro-
cess actually before his eyes. A week's study
upon the book will less certainly be retained
in his memory than a single view of the
opened thorax of a frog or dog. There be-
fore him is the throbbing heart; he sees its
relations to adjoining structures, and marks,
with a wonder he never before knew, that
mystery of life by which the heart, even
though excised from the body, does not cease
for a time its rhythmic beat. To imagine,
then, that teachers of physiology find mere
amusement in these operations is the greatest
of ignorant mistakes. They deem it desira-


ble that certain facts be accurately fixed in
memory, and they know that no system of
mnemonics equals for such purpose the dem-
onstration of the function itself.

Just here, however, arises a very important
question. Admitting the benefit of the dem-
onstration of scientific facts, how far may one
justifiably subject an animal to pain for the
purpose of illustrating a point already known?
It is merely a question of cost. For instance,
it is an undisputed statement in physical
science that the diamond is nothing more
than a form of crystallized carbon, and, like
other forms of carbon, under certain con-
ditions, may be made to burn. Now most of
us are entirely willing to accept this, as we
do the majority of truths, upon the testimony
of scientific men, without making demon-
stration a requisite of assent. In a certain
private school, however, it has long been the
custom once a year, to burn in oxygen a
small diamond, worth perhaps $30, so as ac-
tually to prove to the pupils the assertion of
their text-books. The experiment is a bril-


liant one ; no one can doubt its entire success.
Nevertheless, we do not furnish diamonds to
our public schools for this purpose. Exactly
similar to this is one aspect of vivisection it
is a question of cost. Granting all the ad-
vantages which follow demonstration of cer-
tain physiological facts, the cost is pain pain
sometimes amounting to prolonged and ex-
cruciating torture. Is the gain worth this ?
Let me mention an instance. Not long
ago, in a certain medical college in the State
of New York, I saw what Doctor Sharpey,
for thirty years the professor of physiology
in the University Medical College, London,
once characterized by antithesis as " Magen-
die's infamous experiment," it having been
first performed by that eminent physiologist.
It was designed to prove that the stomach,
although supplied with muscular coats, is
during the act of vomiting for the most part
passive ; and that expulsion of its contents
is due to the action of the diaphragm and the
larger abdominal muscles. The professor to
whom I refer did not propose to have even


Magendie's word accepted as an authority
on the subject: the fact should be demon-
strated again. So an incision in the abdomen
of a dog was made ; its stomach was cut out ;
a pig's bladder containing colored water was
inserted in its place, an emetic was injected
into the veins, and vomiting ensued. Long
before the conclusion of the experiment the
animal became conscious, and its cries of
suffering were exceedingly painful to hear.
Now, granting that this experiment impressed
an abstract scientific fact upon the memories
of all who saw it, nevertheless it remains
significantly true that the fact thus demon-
strated had no conceivable relation to the
treatment of disease. It is not to-day re-
garded as conclusive of the theory which,
after nearly two hundred repetitions of his
experiment, was doubtless considered by Ma-
gendie as established beyond question. Doc-
tor Sharpey, a strong advocate of vivisection,
by the way, condemned it as a perfectly
unjustifiable experiment, since "besides its
atrocity, it was really purposeless." Was


this repetition of the experiment which I
have described worth its cost ? Was the gain
worth the pain ?

Let me instance another and more recent
case. Being in Paris a year ago, I went one
morning to the College de France, to hear
Brown-Sequard, the most eminent experi-
menter in vivisection now living one who,
Doctor Carpenter tells us, has probably in-
flicted more animal suffering than any other
man in his time. The lecturer stated that
injury to certain nervous centers near the
base of the brain would produce peculiar and
curious phenomena in the animal operated
upon, causing it, for example, to keep turning
to one side in a circular manner, instead of
walking in a straightforward direction. A
Guinea-pig was produced a little creature,
about the size of a half-grown kitten and
the operation was effected, accompanied by a
series of piercing little squeaks. As foretold,
the creature thus injured did immediately
perform a " circular " movement. A rabbit
was then operated upon with similar results.


Lastly, an unfortunate poodle was introduced,
its muzzle tied with stout whip-cord, wound
round and round so tightly that it must
necessarily have caused severe pain. It was
forced to walk back and forth on the long
table, during which it cast looks on every
side, as though seeking a possible avenue of
escape. Being fastened in the operating
trough, an incision was made to the bone,
flaps turned back, an opening made in the
skull, and enlarged by breaking away some
portions with forceps. During these various
processes no attempt whatever was made to
cause unconsciousness by means of anaesthet-
ics, and the half-articulate, half-smothered
cries of the creature in its agony were terrible
to hear, even to one not unaccustomed to
vivisections. The experiment was a " suc-
cess " ; the animal after its mutilation did
describe certain circular movements. But
I cannot help questioning in regard to these
demonstrations, did they pay ? This experi-
ment had not the slightest relation whatever
to the cure of disease. More than this : it


teaches us little or nothing in physiology.
The most eminent physiologist in this coun-
try, Doctor Austin Flint, Jr., admits that ex-
periments of this kind " do not seem to have
advanced our positive knowledge of the func-
tions of the nerve centers," and that similar
experiments " have been very indefinite in
their results." On this occasion, therefore,
three animals were subjected to torture to
demonstrate an abstract fact, which probably
not a single one of the two dozen spectators
would have hesitated to take for granted on
the word of so great a pathologist as Doctor
Brown-Sequard. Was the gain worth the
cost ?

This, then, is the great question that must
eventually be decided by the public. Do
humanity and science here indicate diverging
roads ? On the contrary, I believe it to be

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Online LibraryAlbert LeffingwellVivisection → online text (page 1 of 5)