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This does not necessarily imply the taking
of life. Should a surgeon, for example, de-
sire to cause a fracture or tie an artery, and
then permit the animal to recover so as to
note subsequent effects, there is no reason
why the privilege should be refused. The
discomfort following such an operation would
be inconsiderable. This permission should
not extend to experiments purely physiologi-
cal and having no definite relation to surgery ;
nor to mutilation from which recovery is im-
possible, and prolonged pain certain as a se-

77. Any experiment performed thus, under
complete anesthesia, though involving any de-
gree of mutilation, if concluded by the extinc-
tion of life before consciousness is regained
should also be permitted.

To object to killing animals for scientific
purposes while we continue to demand their
sacrifice for food, is to seek for the appetite a
privilege we refuse the mind. It is equally


absurd to object to vivisection because it dis-
sects, or " cuts up." If no pain be felt, why-
is it worse to cut up a dog, than a sheep or
an ox? Such experiments as the foregoing
might be permitted to any extent desired in
our medical schools.

Far more difficult is the question of painful
experimentation. Unfortunately, it so hap-
pens that the most attractive original investi-
gations are largely upon the nervous system,
involving the consciousness of pain as a re-
quisite to success. Toward this class of ex-
periments the State should act with caution
and firmness. It seems to me that the fol-
lowing restrictions are only just.

Ill In view of the great cost in suffering,
as compared with the slight profit gained by
the student, the repetition, for purposes of class
instruction of any experiment involving pain
to a vertebrate animal should be forbidden by

IV, In view of the slight gain to practical
medicine resulting from innumerable past ex-
periments of this kind, a painful experiment


upon a living vertebrate animal should be per-
mitted solely for purposes of original investiga-
tion, and then only under the most rigid sur-
veillance, arid preceded by the strictest precau-
tions. For every experiment of this kind the
physiologist should be required to obtain spe-
cial permission from a State board, specifying
on application (i) the object of the proposed
investigation, (2) the nature and method of
the operation, (3) the species of animal to be
sacrificed, and (4) the shortest period during
which pain will probably be felt. An officer
of the State should be given an opportunity
to be present ; and a report made, both of the
length of time occupied, and the knowledge,
if any, gained thereby. If these restrictions
are made obligatory by statute, and their vio-
lation made punishable by a heavy fine, such
experiments will be generally performed only
when absolutely necessary for purposes of
scientific research.

In few matters is there greater necessity
for careful discrimination than in everything
pertaining to this subject. The attempt has


been made in this paper to indicate how far
the State leaning to mercy's side may-
sanction a practice often so necessary and
useful, always so dangerous in its tendencies.
That is a worthy ideal of conduct which seeks

"Never to blend our pleasure or our pride
With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels."

Is not this a sentiment in which even science
may fitly share ? Are we justified in neglecting
the evidence she offers, purchased in the past
at such immeasurable agonies, and in demand-
ing that year after year new victims shall be
subjected to torture, only to demonstrate what
none of us doubt ? That is the chief question.
For, if all compromise be persistently rejected
by physiologists, there is danger that some
day, impelled by the advancing growth of
humane sentiment, society may confound in
one common condemnation all experiments
of this nature, and make the whole practice
impossible, except in secret and as a crime.

[From Lippincott's Magazine, August, 1884.]


Omitting entirely any consideration of the
ethics of vivisection, the only points to which
in the present article the attention of the
reader is invited are those in which scientific
inquirers may be supposed to have a common

I. One danger to which scientific truth
seems to be exposed is a peculiar tendency
to underestimate the numberless uncertain-
ties and contradictions created by experimen-
tation upon living beings. Judging from the
enthusiasm of its advocates, one would think
that by this method of interrogating nature
all fallacies can be detected, all doubts deter-
mined. But, on the contrary, the result of


experimentation, in many directions, is to
plunge the observer into the abyss of uncer-
tainty. Take, for example, one of the simplest
and yet most important questions possible,
the degree of sensibility in the lower ani-
mals. Has an infinite number of experiments
enabled physiologists to determine for us the
mere question of pain ? Suppose an amateur
experimenter in London, desirous of perform-
ing some severe operations upon frogs, to
hesitate because of the extreme painfulness
of his methods, what replies would he be likely
to obtain from the highest scientific authori-
ties of England as to the sensibility of these
creatures ? We may fairly judge their prob-
able answers to such inquiries from their
evidence already given before a royal com-


Dr. Carpenter w r ould doubtless repeat his
opinion that " frogs have extremely little per-
ception of pain ;" and in the evidence of that

* The contradictory opinions ascribed to most of the authorities
quoted in this article are taken directly from the " Report of the
Royal Commission on the Practice of Subjecting Live Animals to
Experiments for Scientific Purposes," a Blue-Book Parliamentary


experienced physiologist George Henry-
Lewes, he would find the cheerful assurance,
" I do not believe that frogs suffer pain at
all." Our friend applies, let us suppose, to
Dr. Klein, of St. Bartholomew's Hospital,
who despises the sentimentality which regards
animal suffering as of the least consequence ;
and this enthusiastic vivisector informs him
that, in his English experience, the experi-
ment which caused the greatest pain without
anaesthetics was the cauterization of the cor-
nea of a frog. Somewhat confused at finding
that a most painful experiment can be per-
formed upon an animal that does not suffer
he relates this to Dr. Swaine Taylor, of Guy's
Hospital, who does not think that Klein's ex-
periment would cause severe suffering; but
of another placing a frog in cold water
and raising the temperature to about ioo
" that," says Doctor Taylor, " would be a
cruel experiment : I cannot see what pur-
pose it can answer." Before leaving Guy's
Hospital, our inquiring friend meets Dr.
Pavy, one of the most celebrated physiologists


in England, who tells him that in this experi-
ment, stigmatized by his colleague as " cruel,"
the frog would in reality suffer very little ;
that if we ourselves were treated to a bath
gradually raised from a medium temperature
to the boiling point, " I think we should not
feel any pain ; " that were we plunged at
once into boiling water, "even then," says the
enthusiastic and scientific Dr. Pavy, " I do
not think pain would be experienced ! " Our
friend goes then to Dr. Sibson, of St. Mary's
Hospital, who as a physiologist of many
years' standing, sees no objection to freezing,
starving, or baking animals alive ; but he de-
clares of boiling a frog, " That is a horrible
idea, and I certainly am not going to defend
it." Perplexed more than ever, he goes to
Dr. Lister, of King's College, and is astonished
upon being told " that the mere holding of a
frog in your warm hand is about as painful
as any experiment probably that you would
perform." Finally, one of the strongest ad-
vocates of vivisections, Dr. Anthony, pupil of
Sir Charles Bell, would exclaim, if a mere


exposition of the lungs of the frog were re-
ferred to, " Fond as I am of physiology, I
would not do that for the world ! '

Now, what has our inquirer learned by his
appeal to science ? Has he gained any clear
and absolute knowledge ? Hardly two of
the experimenters named agree upon one
simple yet most important preliminary of
research^ the sensibility to pain of a single
species of animals.

Let us interrogate scientific opinion a little
further on this question of sensibility. Is there
any difference in animals as regards suscep-
tibility to pain ? Dr. Anthony says that we
may take the amount of intelligence in ani-
mals as a fair measure of their sensibility
that the pain one would suffer would be in
proportion to its intelligence. Dr. Ruther-
ford, Edinburgh, never performs an experi-
ment upon a cat or a spaniel if he can help it,
because they are so exceedingly sensitive ;
and Dr. Horatio Wood, of Philadelphia, tells
us that the nervous system of a cat is far
more sensitive than that of the rabbit. On


the other hand, Dr. Lister, of King's College,
is not aware of any such difference in sensi-
bility in animals, and Dr. Brunton, of St.
Bartholomew's, finds cats such very good
animals to operate with that he on one oc-
casion used ninety in making a single ex-

Sir William Gull thinks " there are but few
experiments performed on living creatures
where sensation is not removed," yet Dr.
Rutherford admits " about half " his experi-
ments to have been made upon animals sensi-
tive to pain. Professor Rolleston, of Oxford
University, tells us " the whole question of
anaesthetizing animals has an element of un-
certainty " ; and Professor Rutherford declares
it " impossible to say " whether even artificial
respiration is painful or not, " unless the ani-
mal can speak." Dr. Brunton, of St. Barthol-
omew's, says of that most painful experi-
ment, poisoning by strychnine, that it cannot
be efficiently shown if the animal be under
chloroform. Dr. Davy, of Guy's, on the con-
trary, always gives chloroform, and finds it no


impediment to successful demonstration, Is
opium an anaesthetic? Claude Bernard de-
clares that sensibility exists even though the
animal be motionless : " // sent la douleur,
mais il a, pour ainsi dire, perdu Fidee de la
defense!" But Dr. Brunton, of St. Bartholo-
mew's hospital, London, has no hesitation
whatever in contradicting this statement " em-
phatically, however high an authority it may

Curare, a poison invented by South Ameri-
can Indians for their arrows, is much used in
physiological laboratories to paralyze the
motor nerves, rendering an animal absolutely
incapable of the slightest disturbing move-
ment. Does it at the same time destroy sen-
sation, or is the creature conscious of every
pang? Claude Bernard, of Paris, Sharpey,
of London, and Flint, of New Yorkt all
agree that sensation is not abolished ; on the
other hand, Rutherford regards curare as a
partial anaesthetic, and Huxley strongly inti-

* ' ' He feels the pain, but has lost, so to speak, the idea of self
defense." Lecons de Physiologie operatoire, 1879, p. 1 15.
f Text-Book of Human Physiology, p. 595.


mates that Bernard in thus deciding from ex-
periments that it does not affect the cerebral
hemispheres or consciousness, "jumped at a
conclusion for which neither he nor anybody
else had any scientific justification." This is
extraordinary language for one experimental-
ist to use regarding others ! If it is possible
that such men as Claude Bernard and Profes-
sor Flint have " jumped at " one utterly un-
scientific conclusion, notwithstanding the
most painstaking of vivisections, what security
have we that other of our theories in physiol-
ogy now regarded as absolutely established
may not be one day as severely ridiculed by
succeeding investigators ? Is it, after all, true,
that the absolute certainty of our most im-
portant deductions must remain forever hid-
den " unless the animal can speak " ?

II. Between advocating State supervision
of painful vivisection, and proposing with
Mr. Bergh the total suppression of all experi-
ments, painful or otherwise, there is manifestly
a very wide distinction. Unfortunately, the
suggestion of any interference whatever in-


variably rouses the anger of those most inter-
ested an indignation as unreasonable, to say
the least, as that of the merchant who refuses
a receipt for money just paid to him, on the
ground that a request for a written acknowl-
edgement is a reflection upon his honesty.
I cannot see how otherwise than by State
supervision we are to reach abuses which con-
fessedly exist. Can we trust the sensitiveness
and conscience of every experimenter ? No-
body claims this. One of the leading physiol-
ogists in this country, Dr. John C. Dalton,
admits "that vivisection may be, and has
been, abused by reckless, unfeeling, or un-
skillful persons ; " that he himself has witness-
ed abroad, in a veterinary institution, opera-
tions than which " nothing could be more
shocking." And yet the unspeakable atro-
cities at Alfort, to which, apparently, Dr.
Dalton alludes, were defended upon the very
ground he occupies to-day in advocating ex-
periments of the modern laboratory and class-
room ; for the Academie des Sciences decided
that there was " no occasion to take any


notice of complaints ; that in the future, as
in the past, vivisectional experiments must be
left entirely to the judgment of scientific men."
What seemed " atrocious " to the more tender-
hearted Anglo-Saxon was pronounced entirely
justifiable by the French Academy of Science.
A curious question suggests itself in con-
nection with this point. There can be little
doubt, I think, that the sentiment of com-
passion and of sympathy with suffering is
more generally diffused among all classes of
Great Britain than elsewhere in Europe ;
and one cannot help wondering what our
place might be, were it possible to institute
any reliable comparison of national humanity.
Should we be found in all respects as sensi-
tive as the English people ? Would indigna-
tion and protest be as quickly and spontane-
ously evoked among us by a cruel act ? The
question may appear an ungracious one, yet
it seems to me there exists some reason why
it should be plainly asked. There is a certain
experiment one of the most excruciating


that can be performed which consists in ex-
posing the spinal cord of the dog for the pur-
pose of demonstrating the functions of the
spinal nerves. It is one, by the way, which
Dr. Wilder forgot to enumerate in his sum-
mary of the " four kinds of experiments/'
since it is not the " cutting operation " which
forms its chief peculiarity or to which special
objection would be made. At present all this
preliminary process is generally performed
under anaesthetics : it is an hour or two later,
when the animal has partly recovered from
the severe shock of the operation, that the
wound is reopened and the experiment be-
gins. It was during a class demonstration
of this kind by Magendie, before the in-
troduction of ether, that the circumstance
occurred which one hesitates to think pos-
sible in a person retaining a single spark
of humanity or pity. " I recall to mind,"
says Dr. Latour, who was present at the
time, " a poor dog, the roots of whose
vertebral nerves Magendie desired to lay bare

'*>>* OF THS X >


to demonstrate Bell's theory, which he claimed
as his own. The dog, mutilated and bleeding
twice escaped from under the implacable
knife, and threw its front paws around
Magendie's neck, licking, as if to soften his
murderer and ask for mercy ! I confess I was
unable to endure that heartrending spectacle."

It was probably in reference to this experi-
ment that Sir Charles Bell, the greatest Eng-
lish physiologist of our century, writing to
his brother in 1822, informs him that he hesi-
tates to go on with his investigations. " You
may think me silly," he adds, " but I cannot per-
fectly convince myself that I am authorized
in nature or religion to do these cruelties."
Now, what do English physiologists and vivi-
sectors of the present day think of the repe-
tition of this experiment solely as a class de-
monstration ?

They have candidly expressed their opinions
before a royal commission. Dr. David Fer-
rier, of King's college, noted for his experi-
ments upon the brain of monkeys, affirms his


belief that " students would rebel " at the
sight of a painful experiment. Dr. Ruther-
ford, who certainly dared do all that may be-
come a physiologist, confesses mournfully,
11 / dare not show an experiment upon a dog
or rabbit before students, when the animal is
not anaesthetized." Dr. Pavy, of Guy's Hos-
pital, asserts that a painful experiment intro-
duced before a class " would not be tolerated
for a moment." Sir William Gull, M. D., be-
lieves that the repetition of an operation like
this upon the spinal nerves would excite the
reprobation alike of teacher, pupils, and the
public at large. Michael Foster, of Cam-
bridge University, who minutely describes all
the details of the experiment on recurrent
sensibility in the " Handbook for the Physio-
logical Laboratory," nevertheless tells us, " I
have not performed it, and have never
seen it done," partly, as he confesses, "from
horror at the pain." And finally Dr. Burdon-
Sanderson, physiologist at University Col-
lege, London, states with the utmost em-


phasis, in regard to the performance of
this demonstration on the spinal cord, " I
am perfectly certain that no physiologist
none of the leading men in Germany, for ex-
ample would exhibit an experiment of that

Now mark the contrast. This experiment
which we are told passes even the callous-
ness of Germany to repeat; which every lead-
ing champion of vivisection in Great Britain
reprobates for medical teaching ; which some
of them shrink even from seeing, themselves,
from horror at the tortures necessarily inflicted ;
which the most ruthless among them dare not
exhibit to the young men of England, this
experiment has been performed publicly again
and again in American medical colleges,
without exciting, so far as we know, even a
whisper of protest or the faintest murmur of
remonstrance ! The proof is to be found in
the published statements of the experimenter
himself. In his " Text-Book of Physiology,"
Professor Flint says, " Magendie showed very


satisfactorily that the posterior roots (of the
spinal cord) were exclusively sensory, and
this fact has been confirmed by more recent
observations upon the higher classes of ani-
mals. We have ourselves frequently exposed
and irritated the roots of the nerves in dogs,
in public demonstrations in experiments on
the recurrent sensibility, . . . and in an-
other series of observations." *

This is the experience of a single profes-
sional teacher; but it is improbable that this
experiment has been shown only to the stu-
dents of a single medical college in the United
States ; it has doubtless been repeated again
and again in different colleges throughout
the country. If Englishmen are, then, so ex-
tremely sensitive as Ferrier, Gull, and Bur-
don-Sanderson would have us believe, we
must necessarily conclude that the sentiment
of compassion is far greater in Britain than
in America. Have we drifted backward in

* " A Text-Book of Human Physiology." By Austin Flint, Jr.
M, D. New York, 1876. Page 589 ; see also page 674,


humanity ? Have American students learned
to witness, without protest, tortures at the
sight of which English students would rebel ?
We are told that there is no need of any pub-
lic sensitiveness on this subject. We should
trust entirely, as they do in France, at Al-
fort, for example, " to the judgment of the
investigator." There must be no lifting of
the veil to the outside multitude ; for the
priests of this unpitying science there must
be as absolute immunity from criticism or in-
quiry as was ever demanded before the shrine
of Delphi or the altars of Baal. " Let them
exercise their solemn office," demands Dr.
Wilder, " not only unrestrained by law, but
upheld by public sentiment."

For myself, I cannot believe this position
is tenable. Nothing seems to me more cer-
tain than the results that must follow if popu-
lar sentiment in this country shall knowingly
sustain the public demonstration of an ex-
periments in pain, which can find no defender
among the physiologists of Great Britain. It


has been my fortune to know something of
the large hospitals of Europe ; and I confess
I do not know a single one in countries where
painful vivisection flourishes, unchecked by
law, wherein the poor and needy sick are
treated with the sympathy, the delicacy, or
even the decency, which so universally char-
acterize the hospitals of England. When
Magendie, operating for cataract, plunged his
needle to the bottom of his patient's eye, that
he might note upon a human being the effect
produced by mechanical irritation of the re-
tina, he demonstrated how greatly the zeal of
the enthusiast may impair the responsibility
of the physician and the sympathy of man for

III. The utility of vivisection in advancing
therapeutics, despite much argument, still re-
mains an open question. No one is so foolish
as to deny the possibility of future usefulness
to any discovery whatever ; but there is a
distinction, very easily slurred over in the
eagerness of debate, between present applic-


ability and remotely potential service. If
the pains inflicted on animals are absolutely
necessary to the protection of human life and
the advancement of practical skill in medi-
cine, should sentiment be permitted to check
investigation ? An English prelate, the Bishop
of Peterborough, speaking in Parliament on
this subject, once told the House of Lords
that " it was very difficult to decide what was
unnecessary pain," and as an example of the
perplexities which arose in his own mind he
mentioned " the case of the wretched man
who was convicted of skinning cats alive, be-
cause their skins were more valuable when
taken from the living animal than from the
dead one. The extra money," added the
Bishop, " got the man a dinner ! " * Whether
in this particular case the excuse was well
received by the judge, the reverend prelate
neglected to inform us ; but it is certain that
the plea for painful experimentation rests
substantially on the same basis. Out of the

* See Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, June 20, 1876.


agonies of sentient brutes we are to pluck the
secret of longer living and the art of surer
triumph over intractable disease.

But has this hope been fulfilled ? Pasteur,
we are told, has claimed the discovery of a
cure for hydrophobia through experiments on
animals. It may be well worth its cost
if only true; but we cannot forget that its
practical value is by no means yet demon-
strated. Aside from this, has physiological
experimentation during the last quarter of a
century contributed such marked improve-
ments in therapeutic methods that we find
certain and tangible evidence thereof in the
diminishing fatality of any disease ? Can one
mention a single malady which thirty years
ago resisted every remedial effort, to which
the more enlightened science of to-day can
offer hopes of recovery ? These seem to me
perfectly legitimate and fair questions, and,
fortunately, in one respect, capable of a scien-
tific reply. I suppose the opinion of the late
Claude Bernard, of Paris, would be generally


accepted as that of the highest scientific au-
thority on the utility of vivisection in " prac-
tical medicine ; " but he tells us that it is
hardly worth while to make the inquiry.
" Without doubt," he confessed, " our hands
are empty to-day, although our mouths are
full of legitimate promises for the future."

Was Claude Bernard correct in this opin-
ion as to the " empty hands ? " If scientific
evidence is worth anything, it points to the
appalling conclusion that, notwithstanding
all the researches of physiology, the chief forms
of chronic disease exhibit to-day in England a

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Online LibraryAlbert LeffingwellVivisection → online text (page 3 of 5)