American Experience
Early Years: Pivotal Decisions
Should Lab Animals Be Used for Testing?

Baltimore, 1949
Following the famed blue baby surgeries, Blalock and Thomas continue to conduct experiments to refine the operation and develop new surgical techniques. Despite their medical successes, their work is facing a rising tide of opposition by animal rights organizations (at that time called anti-vivisectionists), whose influence is beginning to register at high levels of the government.

Background:
Medical schools and hospitals had almost always depended on animals for their experiments. The preferred animal was the pig because its anatomy closely resembled a human's. However, pigs were costly, and several hospitals, including Johns Hopkins, used dogs for their experiments. Vivien Thomas performed literally hundreds of operations on these animals while he was perfecting the blue baby surgery. Blalock and the other professors at Hopkins also used dogs as teaching tools to instruct medical students on how to perform surgeries.

Throughout the 1940s, however, the anti-vivisection movement began to grow powerful. To these animal rights activists, animal experimentation was a moral and ethical outrage and had to be stopped. They staged protests and conducted letter campaigns that filled mailboxes across the country. Government officials took note and began to discuss whether or not to restrict animal experimentation. Much of the attention in the eastern United States was focused on the now world-famous Johns Hopkins. By the late 1940s, Blalock and his colleagues faced severe public pressure as well as government hearings to confront the vivisection question.




Select one of these three choices:

Choice 1
Blalock should stop using dogs for medical experiments.

Blalock realizes that increasing public antagonism and government involvement will create too much of a problem for Hopkins. It might be best to find another way to test new surgical techniques.

Choice 2
Blalock should simply ignore the antivivisectionists and continue to use animals for medical purposes.

The general public will not understand the details of why dogs are important for medicine. There is no reason to waste time better spent at in the operating room and the lab.

Choice 3
Blalock should address the antivivisectionists and try to prove that animal experiments are useful and necessary.

The general public does not understand why dogs are so important for medical experimentation. Before the antivivisectionists grow too powerful, it might be wise to address the issue and show why dogs are necessary.