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1847 -1878: Medical Ethics

The Historical Perspective

From 1847 -1878 French physician Claude Bernard established the modern use of laboratory animal models in experimental medicine for humans, which quickly grew to become the mainstay for twentieth century biomedical research despite its 130 year old, comparatively antiquated origin. To gain an insight into where science was during this period in the 19th century, the following sheds clear light:

Animal Experimentation: the legacy of Claude Bernard  Drs LaFollette PhD and Shanks PhD

‘Claude Bernard, the father of scientific physiology, believed that if medicine was to become truly scientific, it would have to be based on rigorous and controlled animal experiments. Bernard instituted a paradigm which has shaped physiological practice for most of the twentieth century. In this paper we examine how Bernard’s commitment to hypothetico-deductivism and determinism led to a) his rejection of the theory of evolution; b) his minimalization of the role of clinical medicine and epidemiological studies; and c) his conclusion that experiments on non-human animals were “entirely conclusive for the toxicology and hygiene of man”. We examine some negative consequences of Bernardianism for twentieth century medicine, and argue that physiology’s continued adherence to Bernardianism has caused it to diverge from the other biological sciences which have become increasingly infused with evolutionary theory’. For the full article please click here

The Legal Perspective

In 1938, the US Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act first required some animal testing by law, and this became yet further enshrined in the 1946 Nuremberg Code, when scientific understanding was still, comparatively speaking, in its infancy. FOR LIFE ON EARTH regards AFMA/EFMA’s recently published paper to be a key item on our website. It expounds the international scientific evidence to date and places this within a legal and historical perspective.  We ask every visitor to please take time to read this impressive report, ideal for witness testimony at any public hearing or legal challenge: The Nuremberg Code subverts human health and safety by requiring animal modeling. To understand where science was when this Nuremberg Code was established, and animal testing first became a requirement by law, the following excerpt from the above paper sheds a clear light (please note all references are at the bottom of this page):

‘At the time of the Nuremberg trials, medical science was very different than it is now. The structure of DNA had not been elucidated, scientists thought the poliovirus entered via the nose (it enters through the gut) [27], the notion of a magic bullet (that for every disease, or at least every infectious disease, a chemical existed that could interact with the single site causing the malady and thus cure the disease without harming the rest of the body) via Ehrlich and Salvarsan [28] was foremost in the minds of drug developers, the modern synthesis in evolution was brand new [29], and animals and humans seemed to be more or less the same except for humans having a soul [2,30,31]. There were no organ transplants, infectious diseases were still a major killer in the developed world, the fields of cognitive ethology and animal cognition were unheard of, and differences between ethnic groups [32-38] and sexes [39-43] in terms of disease and drug reactions had not yet been discovered. Physics was just beginning to cast off the shackles of determinism and reductionism but chaos and complexity theory was still on the horizon. It was a different world. People in the 1940s are to be excused for thinking that animals and humans would react more or less the same to drugs and disease. We will now bring the reader into the current scientific environment as it relates to our topic [30,44-49].’ For the full article please click here


27. Paul JR: A History of Poliomyelitis. New Haven: Yale University Press; 1971.

28. Ehrlich P, Hata S: Die experimentalle Chemotherapie der Spirillosen. Berlin: Springer; 1910.

29. Mayr E: What evolution Is. Basic Books 2002.

2. Elliot P: Vivisection in Historical Perspective. edn. In Vivisection and the Emergence of Experimental Medicine in Nineteenth Century France. Edited by Rupke N. New York: Croom Helm; 1987:48–77.

30. LaFollette H, Shanks N: Animal Experimentation: The Legacy of Claude Bernard. Int Stud Philos Sci 1994, 8(3):195–210.

31. Bernard C: An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine. New York: Dover; 1957 (1865).

32. Cheung DS, Warman ML, Mulliken JB: Hemangioma in twins. Ann Plast Surg 1997, 38(3):269–274.

33. Couzin J: Cancer research. Probing the roots of race and cancer. Science 2007, 315(5812):592–594.

34. Gregor Z, Joffe L: Senile macular changes in the black African. Br J Ophthalmol 1978, 62(8):547–550.

35. Haiman CA, Stram DO, Wilkens LR, Pike MC, Kolonel LN, Henderson BE, Le Marchand L: Ethnic and racial differences in the smoking-related risk of lung cancer. N Engl J Med 2006, 354(4):333–342.

36. Spielman RS, Bastone LA, Burdick JT, Morley M, Ewens WJ, Cheung VG: Common genetic variants account for differences in gene expression among ethnic groups. Nat Genet 2007, 39(2):226–231.

37. Stamer UM, Stuber F: The pharmacogenetics of analgesia. Expert Opin Pharmacother 2007, 8(14):2235–2245.

38. Wilke RA, Dolan ME: Genetics and Variable Drug Response. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association 2011, 306(3):306–307.

39. Holden C: Sex and the suffering brain. Science 2005, 308(5728):1574.

40. Kaiser J: Gender in the pharmacy: does it matter? Science 2005, 308(5728):1572.

41. Simon V: Wanted: women in clinical trials. Science 2005, 308(5728):1517.

42. Wald C, Wu C: Of Mice and Women: The Bias in Animal Models. Science 2010, 327(5973):1571–1572.

43. Willyard C: HIV gender clues emerge. Nat Med 2009, 15(8):830.

44. LaFollette H, Shanks N: Animal models in biomedical research: some epistemological worries. Public Aff Q 1993, 7(2):113–130.

45. LaFollette H, Shanks N: Brute Science: Dilemmas of animal experimentation. London and New York: Routledge; 1996.46. Shanks N, Greek R: Animal Models in Light of Evolution. Boca Raton: Brown Walker;


47. Shanks N, Greek R, Greek J: Are animal models predictive for humans? Philos Ethics Humanit Med 2009, 4(1):2.

48. Greek R, Greek J: Is the use of sentient animals in basic research justifiable? Philos Ethics Humanit Med 2010, 5:14.

49. Greek R, Shanks N, Rice MJ: The History and Implications of Testing Thalidomide on Animals. The Journal of Philosophy, Science & Law 2011, 11.