Incompetent Staff Increase Animal Body Count at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Laboratories

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3 min read

Three mice were scalded to death in their cage after laboratory staff at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) ran it through a high-temperature washer used for sterilization.

That incident was just one of more than a dozen detailed in federal records obtained by PETA that show a continuing pattern of widespread staff negligence, rogue experimentation, and garden-variety incompetence that has caused immense suffering and the grotesque deaths of numerous animals in the laboratories at BWH, a teaching facility of Harvard Medical School.

PETA is calling on BWH administration to finally crack down on animal welfare violations by imposing meaningful repercussions, revoking the privileges of violators, and banning animal experimentation.

A white mouse held in a gloved hand

Negligence and incompetence in BWH laboratories abound. Between June 2021 and September 2022, the hospital reported 17 violations of animal welfare guidelines to federal authorities, including the scalding deaths. Others include the following:

  • An experimenter amputated part of the tails of mice too old for the procedure. One animal had to be euthanized.
  • Instead of giving frogs anesthetics prior to surgery, experimenters put them on ice.
  • Experimenters injected 20 mice in the wrong location, resulting in cuts and swelling and leaving one animal dead.

Experimenters failed to provide animals with necessities such as food or water. A pregnant mouse who had been removed from an enclosure was left in a container without water overnight. Also, three mice were killed after experimenters neglected to feed them, failed to monitor them, and allowed their condition to deteriorate.

According to federal documents, experimenters and other staff members also failed to give animals appropriate pain relief in six separate incidents, including the following:

  • Experimenters failed to give mice in two cages pain relief following surgery. Two of the animals died.
  • Mice in three cages didn’t receive a second dose of pain medication after an invasive procedure.
  • Mice didn’t receive the full regimen of pain relief. An experimenter also failed to follow a policy regarding handling and signage for hazardous materials in animals.
  • Four mice died and others required euthanasia after they were given an unapproved drug.

A white rat sits on a blue blanket

Experimenters prolonged animals’ suffering, callously extending their agony:

  • Eighteen mice were found dead or required euthanasia after an experimenter ignored veterinary orders to stop experiments.
  • Four mice sustained serious wounds from fighting. One was euthanized, but the experimenter ignored veterinary orders to euthanize the remaining three, allowing them to suffer.
  • Experimenters found a mouse in pain with a hunched posture and ruffled fur, and several of her pups had died. An experimenter let her suffer without euthanizing her, as required by experimental guidelines.

A Culture of Callousness

PETA previously called on the Boston Police Department to investigate BWH after finding 55 incidents of cruelty to animals there, including starvation deaths, and that sheep and mice were denied adequate pain relief. The hospital’s affiliate, Harvard Medical School, employs experimenter Margaret Livingstone, who takes baby monkeys away from their mothers and has sewn their eyelids shut in depraved and pointless sensory deprivation studies.

BWH received more than $381 million in taxpayer funds in 2022. But experimenters there pay no heed to even the most basic animal welfare guidelines.

Without meaningful repercussions for staff who violate such guidelines, the suffering at BWH will continue. PETA is calling on the administration to, at a minimum, impose sanctions on rogue experimenters and crack down on inept or callous staffers.

It’s time for BWH to take a bold step toward a more compassionate research model by implementing PETA scientists’ Research Modernization Deal, a guidebook for non-animal research.

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