Vivisection Experiments.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 10th May 1922.

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Dr. MURRAY:

I do not know whether it is a breach of the traditions of the House, but I do not know that there is much harm in mentioning the fact that my hon. and gallant Friend told me before I came into the House that he would not like me to be here at a quarter to four o'clock. He usually likes a large audience when he is speaking and I thought there was something suspicious in the suggestion so I inquired and discovered that he was going to attempt to introduce this Bill. In a sense I am very glad that he has introduced it. I am always so impressed with his almost unchallengeable wisdom upon every other subject that I am glad to discover that he is human after all and sometimes he is wrong upon public questions of this sort. It is comforting for the ordinary Member who sometimes makes mistakes in public policy to know that my hon. and gallant Friend, like Homer, occasionally nods too. This is a really flank attack upon experimental research. I should have expected a frontal attack judging from my hon. and gallant Friend's usual methods. It would have been more frank and candid if he had introduced a Bill abolishing all experimental research of this kind. I dislike the word vivisection and prefer experimental research. My hon. and gallant Friend gave as his principal reason that there conscientious objectors to experimental research and therefore they should not be taxed for experimental research of that sort. I did not discover that he brought in a Bill to prevent any public money being wasted upon the Navy or the Army because there are conscientious objectors who will be taxed for, as they say, killing other people. The position is quite the same. If he would like to be consistent he ought also to have included in his Bill that no public money should be spent upon the Army or upon the Navy. He did not discuss the merits of experimental research. There are two or three reasons which I should like to give why public money of all monies should be spent upon experimental research. Vivisection, as it is called, has been the means of advancing medical research within the last 30 or 40 years to an extraordinary degree. There is, for instance, the surgery of the brain. You cannot experiment upon the human brain. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] I did hear of an Englishman who suggested that a surgical operation should be made upon a Scotsman's head under certain conditions, but although the suggestion has been made the experiment has never been carried out and therefore no Scotsman has ever got a glimmer of a sense of humour. But since research experiments have been made in the matter of the brain, some people suggest that Scotsmen have acquired a sense of humour. I do not know whether it is due to those experiments or not. Experiments upon animals have been the cause of a big progress in research of the brain, and that was of great use in the late War and saved thousands of lives. It is therefore a cause for which public money should be spent and spent much more liberally than it is at the present time. Take the case of diphtheria. How many lives have been saved by the knowledge gained by experiments in connection with anti-toxin? Surely that is an object for the spending of public money. One of the most recent advances in medical science has been due to experimental research in connection with the pituitary gland at the base of the brain. Without these experiments progress could not have been made, and in cases of shock after wounds in the War thousands of lives were saved. In another department, with which this House always shows sympathy, namely, obstetrics and women in labour, a series of experiments has saved more lives of women and children in one of the biggest crises of their lives than any other thing I know.