Court Rules that Dog Experiment Details Must Come to Light, Sets New Precedent
Michigan Court Says Wayne State Must Provide Physicians Committee Public Records Detailing Heart Failure Experiments on Dogs
WASHINGTON—A Michigan court has rejected a Wayne State University lawsuit that attempted to stop the Physicians Committee from accessing public records showing the details of its heart failure experiments on dogs.
“Now that the facts can finally be made public, it will be clear that the experiments are cruel, and that there is no shortage of better research methods,” said Leslie Rudloff, senior counsel for the Physicians Committee.
In the new ruling, the judge rejected Wayne State’s arguments, explaining that Wayne State’s basis for withholding public records went beyond the Michigan Freedom of Information Act’s allowed exemptions, which must be applied narrowly. The judge ordered Wayne State to provide the records after receiving an updated request from the Physicians Committee.
According to medical records obtained previously by the Physicians Committee, Charlie, a hound-Labrador mix, experienced two major surgeries to place medical devices in her body and had weeping wounds where catheters protruded. Jessie, a husky, didn’t suffer as long as Charlie. She died suddenly just six days after her first surgery. The Physicians Committee has obtained a photo of Queenie, a Dalmatian mix, who died in Wayne State’s laboratory in 2010.
In September 2012, the Physicians Committee requested updated records about Wayne State’s heart experiments. In November, the university responded by refusing to provide any details on the experiments and filing a lawsuit in the Wayne County circuit court to assert that it should be exempt from Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act. On Dec. 18, the Physicians Committee filed a counterclaim, asking the court to require Wayne State to provide the records.
“We need to shift the focus to research that is relevant to humans,” says cardiologist John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., the Physicians Committee’s director of academic affairs. “That means population studies, human-based basic science and clinical trials, especially. Modeling heart failure in animals has not proved its worth.”
Epidemiological studies such as the Framingham Study and the Methodist Study have allowed researchers to identify the causes of heart failure, and human clinical trials provide details into specific aspects of the disease.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.