Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/446

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436
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

DISCUSSION AND CORRESPONDENCE.

LEGISLATION AGAINST MEDICAL DISCOVERY.[1]

Dear Sir: I observe that a new bill on the subject of vivisection has been introduced into the Senate, Bill No. 34. This bill is a slight improvement on its predecessor, but it is still very objectionable. I beg leave to state very briefly the objection to all such legislation.

1. To interfere with or retard the progress of medical discovery is an inhuman thing. Within fifteen years medical research has made rapid progress, almost exclusively through the use of the lower animals, and what such research has done for the diagnosis and treatment of diphtheria it can probably do in time for tuberculosis, erysipelis, cerebro-spinal meningitis and cancer, to name only four horrible scourges of mankind which are known to be of germ origin.

2. The human race makes use of animals without the smallest compunctions as articles of food and as laborers. It kills them, confines them, gelds them and interferes in all manner of ways with their natural lives. The liberty we take with the animal creation in using utterly insignificant numbers of them for scientific researches is infinitesimal compared with the other liberties we take with animals, and it is that use of animals from which the human race has most to hope.

3. The few medical investigators can not, probably, be supervised or inspected or controlled by any of the ordinary processes of Government supervision. Neither can they properly be licensed, because there is no competent supervising or licensing body. The Government may properly license a plumber, because it can provide the proper examination boards for plumbers; it can properly license young men to practice medicine, because it can provide the proper examination boards for that profession, and these boards can testify to the fitness of candidates; but the Government cannot provide any board of officials competent to testify to the fitness of the medical investigator.

4. The advocates of anti-vivisection laws consider themselves more humane and merciful than the opponents of such laws. To my thinking these unthinking advocates are really cruel to their own race. How many cats or guinea pigs would you or I sacrifice to save the life of our child or to win a chance of saving the life of our child? The diphtheria-antitoxin has already saved the lives of many thousands of human beings, yet it is produced through a moderate amount of inconvenience and suffering inflicted on horses and through the sacrifice of a moderate number of guinea pigs. Who are the merciful people—the few physicians who superintend the making of the antitoxin and make sure of its quality, or the people who cry out against the infliction of any suffering on animals on behalf of mankind?

It is, of course, possible to legislate against an improper use of vivisection. For instance, it should not be allowed in secondary schools or before college classes for purposes of demonstration only; but any attempt to interfere with the necessary processes of medical investigation is, in my judgment, in the highest degree inexpedient, and is fundamentally inhuman.

Yours very truly,
C. W. Eliot.
Hon. James McMillan.
 

  1. An open letter from President Eliot of Harvard University to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the District of Columbia.