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Home Back Issues No 3: Too graphic for general audiences: Posting animal surgery techniques on social media?

Apr 12

No 3: Too graphic for general audiences: Posting animal surgery techniques on social media?

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Too graphic for general audiences?

Posting animal surgery techniques on social media?

Reader Question: “My grad student is seeking permission to post videos of some of our animal surgeries on JoVE, YouTube or other sites so other scientists can learn how to perform them. Is there any problem with this?”

Expert Comments:

The Materials & Methods section of most journal articles cannot substitute for someone showing and telling a scientist how to perform a research procedure. This is certainly true of animal experiments, and your grad student’s interest in posting a how-to video can help young scientists get their work going sooner and smarter, and can even help animal welfare by reducing trial-and-error in other labs on work you’ve honed in your own lab. What a great contribution to share this knowledge.

But, make sure it’s done carefully. As a laboratory-animal veterinarian, I’ve communicated with vets at other institutions about what we see as troubling how-to videos. In fact, I first learned about JoVE when a post-doc at my institution asked for my vet’s-eye assessment of a video she’d seen posted from another institution. She wanted to learn to do the particular mouse surgery being demonstrated, but couldn’t stop watching how the anesthetized mouse twitched whenever the surgeon did a manipulation.

If you or someone under your supervision is thinking of making a video and sharing your knowledge, here’s a checklist of concerns to review before the cameras start rolling:

  • Does the procedure follow your IACUC protocol?
  • Have the procedures been reviewed with your veterinarian?
  • Does the surgery meet the NIH Guide’s standards of sterility – fur clipped, skin prepped with a proper disinfectant, sterilized instruments, performed in an uncluttered clean space?
  • Will the video show and discuss peri-operative analgesic treatment for survival surgery?
  • Will it show and discuss surgical after-care (fluids, warmth, quiet)?
  • And, because a video is worth 10,000 words: do your animals look like they are completely anesthetized before and during any invasive procedure?

There will always be people who are opposed to any use of animals in laboratories. To be sure, they see it as their duty to watch what scientists are doing and to expose bad practices. No matter how good the surgery technique is, just doing it opens you and your lab to criticism, and so I applaud the student’s impulse to want to share expertise in the face of this. But remember that public and semi-public videos are easy to find. This video can show your commitment to responsible animal care and use — but only if you make sure that the production values include meticulous attention to animal health, welfare and pain management.

Comments by Larry Carbone, DVM, PhD, senior veterinarian and associate director of the Laboratory Animal Resource Center at the University of California-San Francisco. Carbone is author of “What Animals Want: Expertise and Advocacy in Laboratory Animal Welfare” (Oxford University Press, 2004)

Do you have a question or challenge that you would like an expert to comment? Submit your own reader question.

Comments (14)
written by Halstead,Jr, April 14, 2010
This quandry echoes so much the debates in the early days of endoscopic/laparoscopic surgery for human abdominal operations. Since all the procdures were rcorded on video, thru the tiny instuments penetrating the abdomen, some surgeons thought it wise to let the patient's family watch ""live"" via a TV monitor in the next room. Other surgeons gave the patient a ""souvenir"" video of the internal actions of his operation. Hospital defense lawyers were aghast; what if a mishap occurred while ""live"" or was on the permanent film? Other surgeons said the wider viewings promoted patient understandng and built good will with the patient and family. I think nowadays hardly any surgeons televise ""live, but I my be wrong. Now, how does that history tell us what to do in the case of rat surgery?
written by Skittish, April 14, 2010
No objection to closed circuit viewing by tech and PIs. But on the open airways or broadband? Yikes! I recall freshman year medical school when the class saw its first film, in color, of an operation. Two guys fainted and one vomited. So how will kids and their parents react if this is on open viewing. Even if the surgery meets all criteria for animal welfare, the "blood and guts" reality could shock and scare the public. Many have no idea what surgery really entails--be it rat or human. I vote No and Double No.
written by New Yorker, April 14, 2010
An insane idea. Kill it.
written by ValleyP.I., April 14, 2010
Why not let Paris Hilton be the guest surgeon--in the nude. Then you can be sure to draw a large audience. Or is the rat a celebrity somehow?
written by Cautious, April 15, 2010
Terrible idea!!!! It would further endanger not only these students, but anyone doing animal research.
written by Terrible idea, April 15, 2010
Are you out of your mind? Broadband posting? Do you not realize that PETA and other "animal liberation" [theri terminology] groups would target you/your lab with protests at minimum, and possibly even criminal violence?
written by Anonymous, April 15, 2010
This is a really bad idea - especially on a website like YouTube. Regardless of how well the surgery is done, it is still surgery on an animal, something extreme activist groups object to strongly. It will provide unwanted attention to your lab and potentially leading to activism towards your lab. If other scientists are interested in the technique, there are many ways to convey that information other than just the methods section of a journal article. YouTube is not an appropriate way of communicating scientific information of this type.
written by guest, April 15, 2010
It is a great idea for "real" scientists at Universities/ Institutions who are looking to see exactly how to preform the same procedure. However it is a really bad idea to post online as you will get scientist "wannabes" thinking I can do that and copy the procedure in their kitchen or garage with no clue as to what they are doing. Scrap the idea!
written by Anonymous, April 15, 2010
Are you serious? I wonder if this is a legitimate question, because it sounds so naive! My work involves a particular mouse surgery that my lab has taught to others, and we have photographed the procedure and shared the photos with other labs as part of a powerpoint presentation. A video would also be a nice idea, but DO NOT post it on anything public like YouTube! You are just asking for trouble. Never assume that an animal rights activist is a rational person that you can reason with! You should be able to email video files or photos without posting them on the internet.
written by JTGWDTT, April 15, 2010
Posting such a thing with direct links to your lab or personnel does seem to be ill-advised. But the idea is noble and worthwhile, especially if you follow the guidelines outlined by Dr. Carbone above, and even more if the techniques lead to minimizing discomfort for the animals, or allow a higher quality of outcome in other ways. Let me suggest that if your student can produce a high enough quality video to serve as a useful tutorial for others, and if your student is willing to abandon the notion of taking credit for having done so, he or she might work with online training groups (CITI, etc.) to distribute them, without divulging where they were performed, as part of the effort to promulgate best practices.
written by Anonymous, April 15, 2010
I think once again, the ""expert"" is way off the mark. The ""expert"" has addressed the first of three problems. The first thing that will happen is that the video will be scrutinized for any possible violation by professional animal rights activists. So yes, any video produced should illustrate best practices for animal research. Which leads to the second problem: Even if it can withstand the scrutiny of the professional animal rights community, it will likely be edited by someone to only show the most gory parts. All the niceties about pain management and animal health and welfare will be trimmed for rapid redistribution online. Surgery on any animal is likely to be upsetting to certain people -- in particular to people who have already decided that there is no ethical way to use animals in research. Hence the third problem: There are people who will never be convinced that animal research is justified. Within that group there are some people who are so militant that they sabotage facilities and commit acts of violence against researchers. There is no way to produce an animal surgical video for research purposes that will do anything other than inflame militant animal rights activists.
written by Tardyon, April 15, 2010
@Skittish ""...Two guys fainted and one vomited. So how will kids and their parents react if this is on open viewing."" Better they know now if they are up for surgery rather than wait until after many years of medical coursework. Also, there are more violent images on evening network TV than a rat operation. What is most disturbing about this thread is the fear of persecution by the animal activist nuts. It a sad state of affairs that one should worry about retaliation because a lab posts a procedure used in scientific inquiry. I say flood the hell out of youtube and the net with as many surgery and methods video's as possible. Desensitize the public, who them the realities and the care taken is such procedures, and hopefully soon any animal rights nut job will be ostracized for the cranks they are by the general public.
written by PETA, April 16, 2010
Go ahead ... saves us the trouble of recruiting undercover invertigators.
written by AnmlDoc2006, April 21, 2010
I strongly disagree with posting on YouTube as this is a more public forum, however, with Jove, you must have or sign up for a temporary or permanent subscription. This is a great resource for scientists to share and teach experiences. I think the only thing I would change is the posting or mention of names, positions, and institutions as this could lead to animal rights extremist (who have too much time on their hands) subscribing to the site and gathering contact information with plans to harass the publisher or worse (both of which are federal crimes).

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