Of mice (and rats and birds) and amendments
Thanks for the informative and balanced article (February Monitor) on the inclusion of rats, mice and birds under USDA regulations. As you did in the article, it is important to make clear to the public that opposition to new regulations does not reflect unwillingness to care adequately for research animals. The opposition is to unnecessary, unhelpful and expensive paperwork.
ROBERT HAMPTON, PHD
National Institutes of Health
National Institute of Mental Health
I commend your staff for covering the animal research debate. This highly emotional and political debate has broad implications for the future of biological and behavioral sciences. Biological science has recently reached a major milestone in the construction of the first draft of the Human Genome Assembly, an accomplishment only achieved by earlier animal research. The Human Genome Assembly is referred to as "just the beginning" because more research is needed to discover how our genetic structure relates to normal and pathological functioning on both the biological and behavioral levels.
The mouse has become the "subject of choice" for discovering these relationships, because of its relatively short reproductive cycle, its similarity to humans, and they are inexpensive to maintain. Implementation of a redundant and economically burdensome bureaucracy would seriously inhibit the advancement of a powerful new understanding of human psychology.
Psychology as a science and as a service to humanity has benefited tremendously from the research done with animal subjects. The relationship between animal research and human psychological treatment is not always direct or immediate and is easily mis-characterized as "out of date" or "no longer relevant to human psychology." But this assumption is incorrect and will have powerful repercussions for our understanding of ourselves. Psychology continues to benefit from the work done with animal subjects, and needs to help protect the basic science that continues to help unravel the mystery of the human condition.
TROY J. ZARCONE, PHD
University of Kansas
After reading "Of mice and amendments" in the February Monitor, I questioned whether I was reading an article or an editorial. Only in an editorial could one find such a biased viewpoint that so clearly reflects the opinion of the writer. Though the article refers to this issue as controversial, if I did not have other sources of information I would have to wonder where the controversy in this controversy was. Of the 31 paragraphs that constituted the "article," only three were primarily devoted to the arguments of those who support the inclusion of rats, mice and birds under USDA regulatory oversight of research involving nonhuman subjects. One of these three paragraphs, however, reported that a majority of APA members support their inclusion. To simply disregard the viewpoint of perhaps a majority of her readers, Ms. Carpenter has done a disservice not only to her readers, but also to the credibility of APA as a whole. PETA could have produced an article concerning this topic that would have been less one-sided and more accurate than that written by Carpenter. Before the Monitor reports on another controversial issue, I strongly recommend that its writers research and report both sides of the argument.
JOSH D. FOSTER
University of Georgia, Athens
The argument that recent efforts to include birds, mice and rats as "animals" under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) are aimed at burying animal research in red tape rather than enhancing animal welfare through improved regulation is inaccurate. Organizations such as The Humane Society of the United States and Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals do not view AWA regulations as a bureaucratic means of limiting animal research itself but rather as a mechanism to limit animal pain, distress and harm.
Most of the pro-exclusion arguments offered in the article are red herrings: the increased regulation would not be "incredibly expensive" and, in any case, would be phased in; the alleged increased paperwork burden amounts to adding a few lines for additional species on already required forms. The same is true of the effort to amend the form for reporting pain and distress, which currently is outdated and inadequate. Already adopted in several countries, a number of scales exist that provide a user-friendly and reliable frame within which to report pain and distress.
The continued regulatory denial that rats, mice and birds deserve the same protection as other biologically related animals is "arbitrary and capricious." The original source of this characterization is Judge Ritchie's 1992 ruling in an earlier lawsuit on the birds, mice and rats issue, not as implied in the article, the proponents of the current lawsuit.
Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
The Humane Society of the United States
Poor communicationamong psychology's specialties
The profile of Dr. Sanford in the February Monitor is a stark example of how poorly psychologists communicate across and within subspecialties. Dr. Sanford's important work with postpartum depression, infertility and pregnancy loss was described as "fulfilling an unmet need." In reality, numerous psychologists specialize in this area. Many hold medical school faculty appointments in departments of reproductive biology or OB\GYN. In some communities, there are so many of us that we compete for the patients that Dr. Sanford considers underserved.
Since the Monitor represents the profession of psychology and supports its scientific base, we found it distressing that no relevant scientific organizations were mentioned. For example, the Mental Health Professional Group (MHPG) of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) is an approved APA CE sponsor and a primary training source for psychologists entering this specialty. Other organizations include the International Society of Psychosomatic OB\GYN and the North American Menopause Society.
One source of this poor communication is that many behavioral medicine psychologists publish in medical journals rather than in psychological journals. As we establish firmer roots within medicine we will become more diversified and disenfranchised. One solution for this problem is for the annual meeting proceedings to be available on the APA Web site so we can easily see what others are doing. Another idea is for the Education Directorate to regularly search the literature not covered by Psych Abstracts for psychologically pertinent articles and to reference them on the APA Web site with hyperlinks.
SHERYL A. KINGSBERG, PHD
University Hospitals of Cleveland/
Case Western Reserve University
MARY CASEY JACOB, PHD
University of Connecticut Health Center
In response to a response
"Disappointed" is how I'd characterize my reaction to Sandra Haber's letter in the February Monitor, in which she trivializes an important issue, namely teaching graduate students about how behavioral health care might be provided in delivery systems of the future. Yes, "patient needs and preferences" are more important than those of a managed-care organization, but how many of her colleagues routinely assessed these in their practices even before managed care came along? She also endorses "treatments based on solid research," but does Dr. Haber have any idea how many of her colleagues use empirically supported treatments (ESTs) in actual practice? Is she really implying that MCOs are the reason that ESTs are underused?
Dr. Haber legitimately raises "confidentiality" as problematic in the present system, but does not mention the failure of so many of us to coordinate care with other practitioners. Is it that managed care interferes with this becoming the usual pattern of practice?
Psychologists who are troubled that some would raise awareness of and try to address issues such as these spend too much energy demonizing managed care and not enough time addressing serious treatment issues that unfortunately have nothing to do with managed care's inefficiencies.
JEFFREY SCHWARTZ, PHD
New York, N.Y.
In the otherwise interesting and important article, "Implications of the Boy Scouts of America case" (November Monitor), Mark Phillips and Margaret Bull Kovera use the term "gender-inappropriate behaviors." In the year 2001 this term should surely be regarded as archaic and, if used at all, enclosed in quotation marks (which Phillips and Kovera did not do). One would have hoped that the many liberation movements of recent decades, especially with regard to sex, gender and sexual orientation, would have led to the enlightenment of psychologists and indeed laypeople, so that it would have been obvious how unnecessary and frankly oppressive it is to label particular bits of behavior as appropriate for people identified as belonging to one gender but not for those belonging to another. For psychologists, who are often regarded as experts about behavior, to continue this harmful practice is particularly troubling. May I suggest that the editors of the Monitor and other APA publications do their part by eliminating such usage from their publications?
PAULA J. CAPLAN, PHD
Letters to the Editor
- Send us a letter