Sunday, February 10, 2008

Some advice for UCLA


UCLA professor Edythe London's home was vandalized again. So far, no one has taken responsibility for the latest event: the apparent use of an incendiary device that caused some charring of her front door.

See A smoldering controversy at UCLA. Los Angeles Times. February 9, 2008. [You might have to register to read the article.]

I wrote about London's research when her house got flooded.

UCLA's response to this has been all knee-jerk. They've done little to explain London's research. I doubt that the PR writers spinning out statements know with any specificity what she is doing.

I have some advice for UCLA and university vivisectors in general, though I realize that my recommendations are idealistic and based on a totally unwarranted presumption that they would want to act honorably, with integrity, and that they have the conviction that they are working in the public's best interests. OK, maybe the existence of such vivisectors is pure pie-in-the-sky hypothesis, easily debunked, and naive, but how should people with genuine integrity act when their publicly-funded activities are criticised as cruel and heinous?

The honorable and ethical course would be to suspend any animal use until the following steps have been taken.

1. Explain, in writing, in detail, in lay terms, what exactly is being proposed, why, and point to examples of any clear unambiguous related work that demonstrates why the studies in question might be helpful. This should be posted on the university website and should be linked from the homepage and from main pages of the related departments.

2. Invite written public comment on the above. These responses should be posted on the webpage referred to above.

3. Respond, in writing, in detail, in similarly lay or technical terms, to each submitted written comment. These responses should be on the website.

These three steps seem to be the very minimum needed before any course of study that could be deleterious to the research subjects should be allowed to commence; if public opinion matters.

Further steps that would reduce the liklihood of the sort of reactions London's studies have evoked include:

1. Open the protocol review process to the public and invite comment.

2. Increase public membership on oversight committees to at least parity with the vested members.

The only way to overcome the distrust of the public would be to:

1. Open the labs to unannounced public inspections.

2. Install webcams in every lab and animal holding room.

Hunkering down won't make the issue go away. Refusing to provide details implies that there is much to hide.

3 comments:

thrugreeneyes said...

I have been following the story of Edythe London's research at UCLA, and I am outraged that the UC system accepts millions of dollars of funding from the tobacco industry. London's inhumane research on monkeys makes me angry. In the recent LA Times article, London says that she trusts the motives of the Phillip-Morris tobacco company, because she says they seemed very "sincere". Were the tobacco companies "sincere" when they knowingly targeted children for cigarettes even though they knew cigarettes caused cancer? UCLA, and the entire UC system, should immediately halt all studies using money from the tobacco industry, but especially London's which is extremeley inhumane and cruel.

Mark Twain said "I am not interested to know whether vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn't...The pain which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmilty without looking further."

Guenady said...

Having read Dr London's letter, which appeared in the press, I find that she ignores the fact that the research she does on primate brains will yield results which can only hypothetically be applied to understanding human brains. The two brains are not identical. As far as I know, there is no great problem with nicotine addicted monkeys, as if one does not force them to consume nicotine, they do not freely choose to do so. What is it in the human brain that prompts humans to do so? That cannot be addressed by her 'research'. Equally, the monkey reaction to nicotine addiction may not be and probably won't be the same as the human reaction (especially taking into consideration the levels of nicotine she forces into her monkeys). Dr London quite rightly mentions that susceptible human individuals frequently have other dependency problems relating to character traits. In fact, the fall-down point of all this research is that for years the tobacco industry managed to stave off regulation because no lung cancer could ever be provoked in laboratory animals... Ergo, according to their flawed logic, tobacco could not be the cause of lung cancer in humans... And this despite the empirical evidence that finally persuaded health authorities to brand tobacco as the culprit. If you give it half a chance, the industry will still go back to this argument-- all based on 'animal research'! Also, as a professional vivisector, Dr London cannot be ignorant of the fact that medical authorities in England as well as the US are beginning to call for the study of whether or not animal experiments result in any useful knowledge applicable to human health. If this premise were true, we would not, today, have the situation where more people die in the US (for one example) every year from the side effects of drugs prescribed by their doctors (drugs safety tested on animals), than die from either cancer or heart disease... two human maladies occurring in modern society and possibly/probably completely preventable by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

thrugreeneyes said...

Guenady,
All interesting points.

Are you the author of this blog? Are you a member of the UCLA community by any chance? I am so angry about this research. I wish someone would challenge London to a public debate, so she would have to defend herself out in the open.