This week, we were asked to define “ethics”. Based off of my own experiences and reflections, this is what I came up with:
Ethics – the use of personally and socially derived morals and principles as a code of conduct
During this week of the McKearn program, we spent copious amounts of time talking about ethics. This topic is one that I would like to think that I know at least a little something about, as I have to deal with ethics in my research on a regular basis. Why is this so prominent for me? Because I conduct research with animals. And, especially since I am hoping to go to veterinary school in a year, this may seem like an oxymoron to some; but, it isn’t at all to me. In my mind, there does not have to be a contradiction between using animals in research and wanting to go to veterinary school, and this is because I have used ethics to rationalize the situation.
Instead of going on a long rant about animals and research, here are just two of my personal opinions:
- Is animal research ideal? No.
- Is it an essential component of modern medicine and society? Yes.
I want to make a difference in the world and in the lives of people and animals. One way that I can do that is through research, as an attempt to better understand the diseases that plague us today. As I said, animal research is not ideal, but it has allowed advances that have improved human and animal lives alike. I first decided I wanted to be a veterinarian because it was a way that I could improve the lives of animals and their owners – in the long run, my research allows me to do that. And, in the meantime, it lets me give lots of animals extra cuddling and love.
I have also learned through personal experiences and an in-depth laboratory animal course (that was taught by a veterinarian) about the extensive ethics and processes involved in any form of animal research. With the numerous rules and regulations that are in place, I do think that everything possible is done to respect the animals, treat them not only humanely but kindly, prevent stress, pain, etc. and minimize the number of animals used. It is also important to remember that many animal studies do not involve pain, discomfort, or death of the animals. My Argentina research, for instance, was a purely observational study that impacted the animals in no way; yet, it is a form of animal research.
I love all of the animals that I get to work with. It is an honor and a privilege. This sense of respect and concern for the animals I work with is something that I will carry with me as I continue to do research. My ethics and morals are what keep me humble and sensitive in my work and decisions, and they will continue to do so throughout my academic and professional careers, and the rest of my life.