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Unformatted text preview: Page 94 Carl Cohen The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research Carl Cohen is a professor at the University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor. (Source: "The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research," The New England Journal of Medicine 314 , 865-869. Notes have been omitted. Copyright 1986, Massachusetts Medical Sociy. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of The New England Journal of Medicine.) Using animals as research subjects in medical investigations is widely condemned on two grounds: first, because it wrongly violates the rights of animals, and second, because it wrongly imposes on sentient creatures much avoidable suffering. Neither of these arguments is sound. The first relies on a mistaken understanding of rights; the second relies on a mistaken calculation of consequences. Both deserve definitive dismissal. Why Animals Have No Rights A right, properly understood, is a claim, or potential claim, that one party may exercise against another. The target against whom such a claim may be registered can be a single person, a group, a community, or (perhaps) all humankind. The content of rights claims also varies greatly: repayment of loans, nondiscrimination by employers, noninterference by the state, and so on. To comprehend any genuine right fully, therefore, we must know who holds the right, against whom it is held, and to what it is a right. Alternative sources of rights add complexity Some rights are grounded in constitution and law (e.g., the right of an accused to trial by jury); some rights are moral but give no legal claims (e.g., my right to your keeping the promise you gave me); and some rights (e.g., against theft or assault) are rooted both in morals and in law. The differing targets, contents, and sources of rights, and their inevitable conflict, together weave a tangled web. Notwithstanding all such complications, this much is clear about rights in general: they are in every case claims, or potential claims, within a community of moral agents. Rights arise, and can be intelligibly defended, only among beings who actually do, or can, make moral claims against one another. Whatever else rights may be, therefore, they are necessarily human; their possessors are persons, human beings. The attributes of human beings from which this moral capability arises have been described variously by philosophers, both ancient and modem: the inner consciousness of a free will (Saint Augustine); the grasp, by human reason, of the binding character of moral law (Saint Thomas); the self-conscious participation of human beings in an objective ethical order (Hegel); human membership in an organic moral community (Bradley); the development of the human self through the consciousness of other moral selves (Mead); and the underivative, intuitive cognition of the rightness of an action (Prichard). Most influential has been Immanuel Kant's emphasis on the Page 95 universal human possession of a uniquely moral will and the autonomy its use entails.universal human possession of a uniquely moral will and the autonomy its use entails....
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This note was uploaded on 11/15/2010 for the course RST 79313 taught by Professor Coudert during the Fall '10 term at UC Davis.
- Fall '10