For the Greater Good

For the Greater Good: Animals & Research, a Five-part Series

The 'For the Greater Good' series is comprised of five featured articles in the Seattle Post Intelligencer.  Each article portrays one author's personal stories of people and animals whose lives have been improved or saved by medical breakthroughs made possible by animal research


Most of what we know about using animals in medical research comes from people who oppose it. The Post-Intelligencer did a five-part series looking at the issue from the other side.  Northwest physicians and researchers discuss why, despite vehement objections, there's value in using animals in medical research.


Use of animals in medical research is supported with both public and private money. But scientists and physicians have been reluctant to join the debate over use of animals, largely because so many in society accept the use of animals to promote human health and sophisticated advances in medical treatments. And most scientists would prefer to do their research rather than devote time to public relations work promoting their endeavors.


Booklet and curriculum guide were put together by the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research. More information about the organization may be obtained at the association's web site:


*   Introduction - Samuel R. Sperry, P-I Associate Editor/Editorial Page


*   Part 1: Unlocking the secrets of genetic disease through animal research - Joesph W. Eschbach, M.D., Former President, NWABR


*   Part 2: Improving medical treatments for animals - Patrick R. Gavin, D.V.M., Ph.D., Professor and Chairman of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, Pullman


*   Part 3: Animals are key to discovering new medicines - Lawrence Corey, M.D., Professor of laboratory medicine and the head of the virology division, University of Washington School of Medicine


*   Part 4: Ethics of using animals in research - Rev. Delmas Luedke, manager for Spiritual Care at Swedish Medical Center, Seattle


*   Part 5: How research animals live - Cynthia Pekow, D.V.M., Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Comparative Medicine, University of Washington


Curriculum guide: The Curriculum Guide includes a 5-lesson unit outlining the use of models in both science and ethics, and provides resources for exploring the use of animals in research, using the "For the Greater Good Article Series" (Seattle P-I, 2000) as a resource. The curriculum guide also includes an assessment involving a letter to the editor.


Examining the Relationships Between Humans and Animals
Students consider their position on the relationship between humans and animals, first individually, then as a group. This process allows for the examination of the currently held assumptions of students, as well as for the analysis of changes that occur as a result of the subsequent lessons.


Models in Science
Diabetes case study scenarios are used to introduce the concept of models and the need for scientific models in research. Discussion highlights the need for understanding biomedical research and the role of bioethics. Students use ‘research process’ cards to try to ascertain the overall pathway for drug development, and reflect on their understanding of the process.


Models in Ethics
Students are introduced to ethical principles, as well as a bioethical decision-making model.  They work through the model with a familiar example, and then complete the first sections of the model as applied to the question of the use of animals in biomedical research.


For the Greater Good
Students are assigned one of the five stakeholder perspectives (physician, veterinary oncologist, biomedical researcher, spiritual leader, or laboratory animal veterinarian.) Before reading the articles, they imagine the issues that would be of concern to each perspective.  They then read the appropriate article and summarize the main points, taking note of the degree to which they anticipated the important issues. They meet in small groups to share the perspectives of the articles and begin to ‘formulate the facts’ for their decision-making model.


Letters and Opinions
Each student follows a particular thread of responses and opinions to the articles. Students share what they have read with each other and complete the ‘formulate the facts’ section of their decision-making model. They clarify what they have learned so far, and what more they would like to know. Alternate strategies for presenting opposing opinions are also provided as optional lessons.

Culminating assessment

  • Decision-making model based on personal position - Students finish the decision-making model. They formulate several options and weigh the relative merits of each, using ethical principles as well as an understanding of scientific processes. Students’ work is assessed according to thoroughness and thoughtful completion and by the rationale presented for the final decision.
  • Letter to the Editor - Students complete a letter to the editor using the decision-making model as a starting point. The letter is assessed according to appropriate use of language, as well as to the use of specific scientific examples to make a persuasive statement.

Field test teachers recommended this unit prior to dissection studies or other examples of use of animals in the classroom.