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Graduated Student of Behavioral Pharmacology Short Essay Case Studies

PART II: Short Essay Case Studies (up to 30 points)

Choose TWO of the case studies below and provide a complete analysis of each case. (If you write a third case study analysis, the third analysis will not be graded.) Each case short essay is worth up to 15 points. In your both of your case analyses, be sure to address the following:

  • Clearly articulate, in your own words, all points of ethical conflict.
  • Identify the legitimate expectations of all interested parties, including those who might not be specifically mentioned in the case narrative.
  • Clearly describe the probable consequences of the action(s) proposed in the case narrative and their effects.
  • What course of action do you recommend and why?
  1. Bob, your fellow grad student, comes to you for advice. Bob’s research mentor has recently noticed that he keeps his stained, desiccated polyacrylamide gels in sealed plastic bags that are taped to the pages of his data book. Bob considers such gels to be primary data that must be maintained in their original form. Bob’s mentor has ordered him to stop doing this. Moreover, he tells Bob to remove the gels already in his data book. Bob’s mentor says that polyacrylamide is a neurotoxin and should be disposed of properly. He instructs Bob to make black-and-white photographs of all his previous gels and to retain the print and negative for each gel. He says that in the future this practice should be followed for all polyacrylamide gel data storage, and that the photographs are to be considered primary data and retained in Bob’s data book. Bob disagrees with his mentor and argues that photographs can be altered and that a desiccated gel is an accurate representation of the original data. He also argues that once the acrylamide is sealed in plastic, there is no danger of exposure to toxic material. Bob’s mentor dismisses these arguments and gives him one month to photograph the existing gels and to dispose of them. Bob is very upset. He thinks his mentor is acting irresponsibly with respect to data retention. He also feels his mentor is being a bully, by forcing Bob to adopt his personal preferences. What advice do you give to Bob?
  1. You are a graduate student in behavioral pharmacology, and your lab is conducting a drug discrimination study, an operant procedure in which rats are trained to identify drugs with stimulus properties similar to those of a training drug. The primary goal of the present study is to test several experimental compounds for their similarity to clozapine, an important treatment for schizophrenia. The compounds to be tested have been sent to your advisor as part of a contract awarded from a drug company. The generalization testing portion of the study is nearing completion, with only one dose-response curve left to obtain. During routine feeding, you notice that 8 of the 10 animals in the study have developed tumor-like growths at the site of injection in the stomach. Additionally, these animals have begun losing weight. Finally, you note that the animals do not exhibit any behaviors suggesting that they are experiencing any discomfort. Concerned, you mention the growths and weight loss to your advisor, who instructs you to continue with generalization testing. He is concerned that having to train a new set of animals in order to test one drug would waste large amounts of research time and resources and may cause problems in interpreting the results. He further states that the animals will be euthanized as soon as the testing phase of the study is complete in less than a month and that the animals will be fine until then. Is your advisor’s suggested course of action legally and ethically appropriate? If not, what should be done in this case? What are your obligations in this situation?
  1. An institutional review board (IRB)-approved clinical trial of a new cancer drug is under way at the cancer center of an academic medical center. The participants in this study, all of whom are adults in the early stages of leukemia, are seen twice per month for treatment and follow-up. Their clinical visits take place in the cancer center building, which also contains research labs and teaching facilities. Due to security measures recently put in force, the study participants must sign a logbook prominently placed at the reception desk when they enter and leave the building. They also must wear name tags. A research coordinator working on this study is concerned that these procedures provide inappropriate public access to patient identification and are inconsistent with patient confidentiality stated in the IRB research protocol. She brings her concerns to you, the director of the cancer center. What will you do?

PART III: In-Depth Case Study Analysis (up to 50 points total)

For this part of the exam, you will read a real-world scientific study and discuss the ethical debate surrounding that study.

A. Analysis of the primary literature article. (20 points total)

Read the following paper (available in the Unit 3 folder of the Files section):

Sillet, T. Scott, et al (2004). Experimentally reducing neighbor density affects reproduction and behavior of a migratory songbird. Ecology 85(9):2467-2477.

Based on your reading of the article, answer the following questions:

  1. According to the authors, why is this study unique and important? (5 points)
  2. Identify the hypothesis and predictions tested in this article. (5 points)
  3. What was the independent variable in this study? How was that variable manipulated? (5 points)
  4. Choose one of the figures in the Results section (Figure 1, 2, or 3 on pages 2472-2473) and in your own words, explain the information conveyed by that figure. (5 points)

B. Ethical implications of the study (30 points total)

After you have completed part one, read Bangert’s (2005) criticism of the methods used in this study, along with the response by Sillet et al:

Bangert, Randy, and T.S. Sillet (2005). The ethics of lethal methods. Frontiers in Ecology. 3(5):241-2.

This article is also available in the Unit 3 Folder. Based on your reading of these letters, answer the following questions:

  1. What objections does Bangert raise regarding the study? (5 points)
  2. Did Sillet et al (2004) follow appropriate protocols when planning this study? Why or why not? (You may have to go back to the original article to answer this question.) (5 points)
  3. In their response to Bangert’s letter, do you think Sillet et al adequately justify the ethics of the lethal methods they used? Justify your answer, citing specific terminology and examples from class discussions and course readings regarding the use of animals in scientific research. (10 points)

Describe an alternative experimental approach that might satisfy the interests and concerns expressed by both sides of this debate. (10 points)

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