This paper explores how the principles of the character-based ethical approach can be applied to the discussion of using animals in the medical research as well as in laboratory experiments. The specific type of the character-based ethical approach that is applied to the topic in the paper is constructive Christian proposal offered by Donna Yarri. Constructive Christian proposal is only one type among many forms of character-based ethics, but this particular approach needs to be applied to the topic of the research.
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The reason is that this ethical theory helps to understand that because animals’ physical, mental, and sensitive characteristics are comparable to human ones, animals have the same moral rights as humans. Therefore, the paper aims to provide not only application of the theory to the study but also strengths and weaknesses in discussing animals in medical research from the perspective of this particular type of character-based ethics.
Ethics of Using Animals in Medical Research and Experiments
A highly debatable issue of ethics of using animals in medical research and experiments can be viewed from different ethical points. One of the important ethical perspectives is the character-based approach.
This perspective is connected with the idea that “humans have no right to exploit other animals irrespective of possible benefits to humans” because animals should have the same rights as humans (Foëx, 2007, p. 750). Donna Yarri offered a constructive Christian proposal by which we as humans must respect moral rights of animals because animals’ physical, mental, and sensitive characteristics are comparable to human ones.
Constructive Christian proposal is based on the idea that “no morally relevant distinction can be found between all humans as a species and all animals as a class” (Kao, 2006, p. 535). Therefore, this character-based ethical theory is directly related to the problem of animals in medical research because it states that humans should not “perform experimentation on animals whose cognitive capacities are equal to or greater than that of marginal humans if we are not willing to so use marginal humans” (Yarri, 2005, p. 52).
However, Yarri (2005) suggests “pragmatic way to distinguish among the kind of experiments that would be permissible from those that would not be” (p. x). Thus, constructive Christian proposal is aimed to restrict animal experimentation while still allowing some.
Yarri’s constructive Christian proposal is a strong ethical theory because it explains the Christian traditions that presume “a more positive assessment of animal” (Kao, 2006, p. 536). On one hand, Yarri offers to use “pet” modal to distinguish between permissible and not permissible use of animals in medical research and experiments. Thus, if people agree that the experiment can be conducted using their pets as experimental subjects, the experiment is permissible.
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Moreover, Yarri suggests putting subjects of experiments for pet adoption after it ends. Furthermore, Yarri claims that humans should “stop ontologizing animals into one of two categories: those we use (and thereby exploit or abuse) and those we love (and accordingly cherish and protect)” (Kao, 2006, p. 536).
As stated by Yarri (2005), according to Christian tradition “before the Fall, all of creation appeared to peacefully coexisted and had a vegetarian diet” (p. 109). Moreover, it is scientifically proved that “animal existence predates human existence”, so “we have to be careful about assuming or asserting that animals exist only or primarily for human use” (Yarri, 2005, p. 115).
Hence, putting human above animals is ethically wrong, and if humans can sacrifice their beloved pets for the medical experiment like God sacrificed his Son, this kind of medical research is considered to be ethical.
While applying constructive Christian approach to the research, it is important to pay attention to some weaknesses of the theory. According Yarri (2005), we should put ourselves on the place of a creature to be experimented upon and examine whether we “would be willing to allow such treatment to be accorded to selves, if it would result in a comparable level of suffering” (105).
At the same time, Yarri present pet owners to decide whether it is ethical or not to conduct medical experiments with their pets. Thus, it is still a decision made by the owner, not by the subject of the experiment. Hence, Yarri uses Christian ethical principle of love to all people and sacrifice for the people and at the same time pragmatic way of use of animals in medical experiments and researches.
It is possible to state that constructive Christian proposal developed by Donna Yarri is one more important approach to value the morality of the choice between ethical and not ethical medical experiments involving animals. The character-based ethical claim that “if the acquisition of “pure knowledge” is considered adequate justification for the infliction of pain, the scientists may be hard pressed to explain why human beings should be exempted” (Bowd, 1980, p. 225).
Constructive Christian proposal by Donna Yarri explains that humans should understand that animals’ physical, mental, and sensitive characteristics are comparable to human ones. Hence sacrifice of animals in case of medical experiments should be merited with the same ethical standards as sacrifice of humans.
Bowd, A. D. (1980). Ethics and animal experimentation. American Psychologist, 35(2), 224-225.
Foëx, B. A. (2007). The ethics of animal experimentation. Emergency Medicine Journal, 24(11), 750-758.
Kao, G. Y. (2006). The ethics of animal experimentation: A critical analysis and constructive Christian proposal. Political Theology, 7(4), 535-537.
Yarri, D. (2005). Ethics of animal experimentation: A critical analysis and constructive Christian proposal. Cary, NC: Oxford University Press.