Yes, after twelve years and $3 million in tax money, Laudenslager should be ready to move on to the next stage of his experiment. It might be called "mother's desperation." But he probably knows all about that, too. He has seen enough.
Laudenslager is no Himmler, I think we can agree. He is just a simple soldier of science following the orders of his conscience to serve society--at great expense to society. But it seems safe to say he is no Albert Schweitzer, either, and he's not running any Primate Panorama. It's sad to think that the monkeys in his CU lab sit out their lives--fifteen or twenty years--in a basement cage, while their cousins a few blocks north at the zoo swing in the trees of a new seven-acre, $14 million primate habitat. But that's the luck of the draw if you are a monkey in America.
Mark Laudenslager's October 3 response to Perez-Giese's article includes criticism of "animal rights" as an "emotional issue" that prevents appreciation of "immediate impact" of animal studies on health, defense of NIH-granting policy, explanation of protective guidelines for animals in laboratories and justification of his monkey maternal-deprivation studies.
In many areas of government supervision, paper regulations do not necessarily reflect actual operations. The Animal Welfare Act contains guidelines (albeit inadequate) to protect animals in laboratories. Nevertheless, laboratories have been closed by animal activists after passing government inspection--most recently the Ronald Wood monkey experiments at New York University. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is insufficiently funded to provide the requisite inspectors to regularly enforce these guidelines.
The NIH peer-review funding system is inherently flawed and almost guarantees non-innovative research. (Nobel laureate Rosalyn Yalow has said, "The truly imaginative are not being judged by their peers. They have none.") The NIH leadership prejudicially favors animal research as the "gold standard." The "panels of experts" are too often composed of myopic animal experimenters apprehensive about the funding of their own animal-research projects. Finally, once funded, a grant is easily renewed by changing a few inconsequential variables. A truly discriminating system would result in rare rather than commonplace experiments that are repetitive, duplicative and irrelevant.
Dr. Laudenslager's experiments are quite peripheral to AIDS. Psychoneuroimmunology does inform that separation-induced immunosuppression alters disease, but the stress experienced by HIV-positive teenagers (i.e., substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, chronic illness, physical trauma and markedly disordered family life with possible emotional, physical and sexual abuse) is hardly related to two weeks of separation from Mother.
My critique of Dr. Laudenslager's research is an objective, scientific evaluation, not an "emotional, animal-rights" opinion. However, laypersons with common sense are perfectly capable of spotting inconsequential research and need not be "emotionless" members of the scientist fraternity. Researchers often demand the public overlook the absence of "immediate impact" of their results and blindly accept that "someday" the results will apply. All too often, what appears irrelevant in the short run proves to be irrelevant in the long run.
Murry J. Cohen, M.D., co-chair
Medical Research Modernization Committee
I enjoyed Bill Gallo's review of Big Night ("The Good, the Bad and the Brilliant," October 3) and plan to see the movie, but I cannot believe that Gallo didn't mention Babette's Feast when looking at the film's predecessors. What happened? Didn't he like it or see it?
Oh, well, keep up the good work. Gallo's the main reason I read the paper.
via the Internet
Regarding Marty Jones's "Amazing Feet," in the September 19 issue:
Thanks for doing fantastic life stories such as this one! The lessons we all can learn from someone with such strength in his spirit is amazing. The article mixed with the powerful photos of Jeffrey Marshall brought forth an empowering feeling that anything can be possible and that the human spirit is something very precious.
via the Internet
Letters policy: Westword wants to hear from you, whether you have a complaint or compliment about what we write from week to week. Letters should be no more than 200 words; we reserve the right to edit for libel, length and clarity. Although we'll occasionally withhold an author's name on request, all letters must include your name, address and telephone number. Write to: