The 1998 Nero Award: March of Dimes ‘Fiddles’ While Birth Defects Rage On
The March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation won PCRM’s tongue-in-cheek “Nero Award” for continuing to “fiddle” with animal experiments while birth defects continue at alarming rates. The trophy is named for the legendary Roman emperor who played his violin as Rome was destroyed by fire. He did nothing to halt the blaze and has since become a symbol of those who ignore crises.
The vast majority of birth defects monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have increased since 1979. Tracking down their causes requires detailed human population studies. Regrettably, the March of Dimes continues to spend a significant amount of funds on animal experiments.
March of Dimes-funded experiments have included giving nicotine, cocaine, and alcohol to animals, putting pigs’ organs into monkeys, and the infamous study in which experimenters sewed kittens’ eyes shut and left them in this condition for up to one year before killing them. Physicians and researchers already know how alcohol, nicotine, and cocaine affect a developing fetus, and cross-species organ transplants have proven to be abysmal failures. The March of Dimes itself admits that no clinically relevant advances came from its kitten-blinding experiments.
Virtually all known developmental hazards were identified through human population studies, including the thalidomide disaster, fetal rubella syndrome, the role of folic acid deficiency in spinal cord abnormalities, and the effects of lead and methyl mercury on development. Recently, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered that magnesium sulfate may prevent nearly two-thirds of the cases of cerebral palsy and almost half of the cases of mental retardation in at-risk babies, a finding that won PCRM’s 1998 Research Innovation Award.
The charred fiddle trophy was delivered to March of Dimes offices in Chicago, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas, and Washington, D.C. PCRM urged the charity to direct all its funds into useful programs, such as human population studies and services for pregnant women, and put down its animal experimentation “fiddle” for good.