We endorse the request by Congress for the NIH to “review ethical policies and processes for appropriate justifications” for research involving NHPs. We commend the NIH for seriously considering this important matter.
However, we question whether the discussion questions listed in the agenda will adequately address the request to review NIH ethical oversight. In particular, the current questions listed for the second group discussion are factual descriptions that could be covered during the preceding presentation. Questions that elicit more valuable information and international insight, and better align with Congressional intent, should be considered.
We recommend the questions, 1. “What is the global state of ethics and new thinking about animals, and how can we apply this to the use of NHPs in research?” 2. “Given the cognitive abilities of and capacity for suffering in NHPs, is there a need for additional levels of review beyond IACUC and NIH committees to consider ‘justification’?” 3. “Could review by a multi- disciplinary team, particularly ethicists, provide more rigorous assessment?”
Dr. Wolinetz’s blog stated, “periodically reviewing agency policies and processes ensures that this framework (referring to welfare measures) evolves in a manner consistent with emerging scientific opportunities and public health needs.” Yet it must also evolve ethically. Internationally, the field of ethics has made tremendous strides since current policies have been in place. An open discussion and analysis of our evolving ethics and knowledge regarding the cognitive abilities and capacity for suffering in NHPs would be most productive and fulfill the congressional intent.
Amber Barnes, Policy Analyst, AAVS