My colleagues and I are deeply saddened by the tragic death of our longtime friend and supporter Kim Howe.
She passed away several days ago in the unfortunate four-car accident involving Bruce Jenner. In light of the very public media coverage of the accident, we wanted to publicly honor Kim’s life and her dedication to our mission.
Kim was a compassionate person and a dear friend—to me personally and especially to animals. She was especially troubled by the use of animals in laboratory experiments and was eager to replace them with other research methods.
We met in 1989, shortly after I founded the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Kim became one of my biggest supporters right from the start. She and her husband Bob visited our offices, and we remained friends ever since.
Kim spoke frequently with her congressional representatives and even joined Toastmasters to develop her speaking skills in order to offer the strongest support possible to our campaigns to improve medical research and education. In Kim’s own words, “Most people think of animals as things to be used and thrown away. They do not stop to think that they have feelings and that we do not have the right to inflict pain on them and abuse them.”
Dr. Barnard and Kim Howe at a Physicians Committee event in 2013.
We want her memory to live on and will continue to work toward the goal she believed in. Thank you, Kim. You will be missed.
The “ice bucket challenge” has gone viral. Participants either dump ice water on their heads or donate to charity—or both. How it started is not exactly clear, but this year, the main beneficiary has been ALS research.
Unfortunately, donors may not be aware that a great deal of ALS research funding is being spent on attempts to create animals with genetic mutations that produce symptoms that mimic ALS. Animal experiments like these are not just bad for animals. They have not resulted in effective treatments. Part of the reason may be that many of the mutations targeted by researchers only account for 5-10 percent of all ALS cases. The failure of translation of results from animal experiments to human patients has been a huge source of frustration. The result is a waste of time, resources, and money.
And it’s the patients who pay the toll: Ninety percent of drugs that appear useful in animals do not work—or prove unsafe—when tested in people. And half the drugs that are approved are later withdrawn or relabeled for adverse effects not detected by animal tests.
Make the most out of your donation by finding a humane charity!
But there is a better way. There are exciting advances in human-relevant medical research that are giving scientists insight into the etiology, prevention and treatment of disease. In ALS research, for example, scientists are now studying motor neuron cells derived from the skin cells of patients with the disease. This technique has led to the discovery of how certain genetic mutations interfere with the ability of motor neurons to function normally—an effect never observed in mouse models of ALS.
Focusing research dollars on new technologies like these—that are directly relevant to human patients—will pave the way to gaining a better understanding of how ALS and other diseases occur, and will hopefully lead to effective treatments.
So if you would like to participate in an ice bucket challenge, please direct your donations to a charity that focuses on relevant and progressive nonanimal research methods.
Compassionate Care is one organization that provides a variety of resources for those affected by ALS and their families—and Compassionate Care does not fund research on animals. You will find a list of other charities that support nonanimal testing methods at HumaneSeal.org.
Let’s put animal experiments on ice and support only ethical, effective research.
This week on Capitol Hill, the Physicians Committee, a former military doctor, and Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson led a demonstration showcasing the latest groundbreaking military trauma training. Human-based simulators—featuring lifelike skin, anatomically correct organs, breakable bones, and realistic blood flow—are designed to create an accurate and realistic experience, something that an anesthetized pig and or goat simply cannot.
The Cut Suit, worn by an actor, recreates the emotional stressors of a combat experience providing real-time feedback. Seeing a soldier on the ground, writhing in pain and calling out for help, illustrates the difference between working on a “conscious casualty” and an anesthetized animal.
Video of the Cut Suit in Action
WARNING: THIS VIDEO MAY BE GRAPHIC AND DISTURBING
The scenarios were so realistic that at least two people stood and left the room during the demonstration. Afterward, congressional staffers got up close and personal with the simulators, even participating in several “surgical procedures.”
Better training for our soldiers means more lives saved on the field. As these extremely advanced training methods continue to gain congressional support, they will replace animal methods—to everyone’s benefit.