Monkey Tests Must Be Disclosed


State must disclose information on substance-abuse tests using monkeys

The state must turn over documents that detail taxpayer-funded experiments conducted on monkeys and other non-human primates for substance abuse research, a state Supreme Court justice ruled in Albany.

The state Office of Mental Health attempted to block the Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine saying that the scientists who performed the studies may be targeted by animal-rights terrorists if the details of their experiments were disclosed.

State Supreme Court Justice Richard M. Platkin threw out nearly every argument OMH offered.

PCRM requested public records relating to OMH-funded research done by three Columbia University scientists at the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City, including grant applications, complaints filed against the researchers and research protocols. OMH provided 27 pages of information but denied the group access to the bulk of the records.

Many of the experiments involved conditioning rhesus monkeys to have drug and alcohol addictions, and then testing whether various medications broke those addictions, said Dr. John J. Pippin, PCRM senior medical and research advisor.

OMH declined to comment.

In court documents, OMH argued that "the well-documented, increasingly frequent threats and acts of violence directed by militant animal rights extremists at research facilities and individual researchers who are engaged in research using animal subjects" was evidence that the information should not be made public.

The court noted PCRM already knew the names of the scientists and said that much of the information was already available on the Internet in published articles.

Platkin wrote: "State government routinely engages in activities that some individuals might find objectionable or inflammatory, but OMH can point to no precedent for insulating the work of New York State government from public scrutiny on the basis that disclosure could upset or incite those who lack respect for the rule of the law."

The ruling said that in its "watchdog" role, PCRM has a legitimate purpose for its request and that is to assess "the scientific value and social utility of the research being performed and whether public resources should be continued to be devoted to this research," the court said.

Pippin said OMH is trying to hide the details of the experiments.

"These claims that were made in the lawsuit about safety of the researchers, privacy, and intellectual property issues -- that's a smokescreen," he said. "They know that this research can't stand the light of day, that when the public knows about this, they are going to be outraged."



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© Keith Mann