Lab monkeys at KU Medical Center suffered neglect, group alleges

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Lab monkeys at KU Medical Center suffered neglect, group alleges  

By ALAN BAVLEY The Kansas City Star

Severe negligence at the University of Kansas Medical Center caused lab monkeys to die of dehydration and suffer needlessly through morphine withdrawal, an animal-rights group claims.

In a complaint filed Tuesday, Ohio-based Stop Animal Exploitation Now asks the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate the way the animals were treated and how they died.

“These primates were experiencing unrelieved pain,” said Michael Budkie, the organization’s executive director.

A spokesman for the medical center called the complaint “old news” and said KU has been working closely with USDA to correct problems at its animal research facility.

The USDA regulates animal research laboratories. It cited the medical center last year for about 160 violations at the research facility. KU has agreed to pay fines of $62,500 for 63 violations, according to the USDA.

Budkie said that in 2008, KU lab workers discovered two monkeys were severely dehydrated and close to death after water supplies to the research facility were disrupted. The monkeys had to be euthanized. A third monkey had died a few days earlier of what also appeared to be dehydration, Budkie said.

“Water is such a basic need for these animals. That has to raise questions about what else happened at this laboratory,” he said.

The animal rights group bases its claims on university documents obtained through a public-records request.

The records also show that in 2009 two monkeys went through withdrawal from morphine.

KU Medical Center researchers published studies in 2008 and 2009 describing the effects of morphine on monkeys infected with the simian version of the AIDS virus. In one of the studies, 11 monkeys received morphine, according to the research report.

The researchers were not immediately available for comment.

KU Medical Center spokesman Stephanie Sharp said the animal research program has been completely reorganized since the incidents in the complaint occurred.

“We have been working very closely with the USDA, so I don’t know how effective a complaint may be,” she said.

Sharp said KU has spent $700,000 to renovate the facility, hired additional staff and recruited experienced veterinarians to supervise.

See Also:
University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS
26 May 2010 - Watchdog Group calls for new Federal Probe of KU; KU Medical Center implicated in Monkey Dehydration Deaths
Letter of Complaint to USDA About University of Kansas Medical Center

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