Medical Journal


In a paragraph in a recent issue we quoted from an article in the Lancet on diabetes and insulin, a passage which made it very clear that the lot of the insulin -treated diabetic is far from being the happy one that the pro-vivisection orator and pamphleteer would have us believe, but, on the contrary, sometimes reaches the point where the patient prefers to put up with the diabetes uncomplicated by the treatment.

Shortly afterwards an article appeared in the British Medical Journal (February 15th) which again emphasizes the difficulties which harass the insulin-treated diabetic, difficulties so real and so obtrusive that scientists are assiduously seeking for other methods of administration (knowing how obsessed the researchers are with the supposed merits of insulin, it is too much to expect that they will take the radical course of throwing it over altogether). Here is an extract from the B.M.J:.

“Many workers have tried to find some method of administration more pleasant than by hypodermic injection which would also allow of a more protracted action of the hormone. All sorts of attempts have been made – insufflation, inunction, and ingestion – with various “protective” substances. S. Hermann and J. Kassowitz and H. Pibram claim to have reduced the blood sugar in experimental animals by inunction of an insulin ointment, but it is improbable that this will be of any clinical use.

In the meanwhile, difficulties obstinately obtrude themselves. Insulin is rapidly absorbed into the blood after injection; necessity and the patient demand that the number of injections in the day should be reduced to a minimum; and in the severe case the physician has to steer a hazardous course between hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia.

In the morning, when the blood sugar is high, he has to give such a dose as will cope with the hyperglycemia and with the carbohydrate contained in the first meal. At night the dose of insulin must be small enough to avoid the risk of hypoglycemic attack during sleep and large enough to maintain as low as possible a level of sugar in the blood when the morning injection of insulin has to be given. These aims are more or less defeated by the rapidity with which insulin is absorbed and acts”.


The sheet anchor of the researcher is the laboratory animal; what the animal shows after experiment is to him the ultimate fact. That which cannot be “proved” by animal-experiment is to him not worthy of serious attention. But he shelves the inconvenient problem as to the variations in reaction in different species, to say nothing of the variation between individuals of the same species.

Take insulin, for example. A short time ago a book was published – Insulin: Its Production, Purification and Physiological Action. It has been extensively reviewed and one such notice asserts that it will probably be regarded as the standard work on insulin, so we cannot be challenged on the ground of not gong to authoritative sources for our information.

In the section on “The Physiological Properties of Insulin” we find significant data as to the variation between animals of different species; data which gives also some idea of the assiduity of the insulin-experimenters; hardly an animal missed that could be got into the laboratory. “The symptoms of the hypoglycaemic condition,” say the authors of the book, “vary in different animals”:.

In rabbits there occurs a loss of muscular tone; the rabbit collapses and on attempted recovery of posture, chronic convulsions occur with frequent spasms and intervals of apparent normality. With large doses death ensues from respiratory failure.

They go on to say that different rabbits “showed great variations in their sensitivity to insulin.”.

Cats, they state, “exhibit great excitability and salivation.” Convulsions are reported in frogs and some fish, and in toads injected with insulin. The hibernating marmot has suffered the attentions of the experimenters and:.

Cassidy and his co-workers found that lowering of the body temperature to 25 in dogs and cats inhibited insulin convulsions and that lowering of the blood-sugar by insulin abolished the shivering reflex, whilst the combined action of cold and insulin in cats and dogs produced a state simulating hibernation.

According to certain researchers, insulin “produces hypoglycaemia, but no convulsions in the domestic fowl.”.

Sheep appear to react normally to insulin except that no signs of convulsions are observable even after large doses.

Goats, asserts another experimenter, require “at least four units per kilogram of body weight to produce shock.”.

It should not be difficult for anyone to read between the lines of these extracts sufficiently to realize something of the misery and suffering implicit in them.

Guinea-pigs, mice and pigeons are also mentioned. And there are sundry references to “starved” animals and their response to insulin; such as the effect of the “injection of insulin into the portal circulation of starved dogs.”.

A veritable holocaust of animal victims marks the history of insulin, alike in its inception and since its introduction into the general medical market.

Even the attempts to find out why and how it works have left behind them a long trail of laboratory sacrifices. Here is a word-picture from this book:.

Fed and starving animals have been used; young and old; rabbits, rats, cats, dogs and other animals have been employed. Some of the animals used have been normal, some have been pancreatectomised, hepatectomised, or eviscerated.

And then follows this significant sentence:.

Very little systematic work under well-defined and what may be termed standard conditions has been recorded.

If this is not to be taken as an indication of the experimental- frenzy of the laboratories, then we ask what other meaning is to be attached to it.

In conclusion we quote from the record of two experiments recounted in the book:.

(1) La Barre devised an experiment using crossed circulation in dogs in which he connected the pancreatic vein of one of the jugular of another, which had been previously depancreatised.

(2) Three dogs were used. Between two of them (A and B) was established a double carotid-jugular anastomosis, the remaining blood-vessels in the neck of B being ligatured. Thus the brain of B was perfused by the blood of A. The body of B was kept alive by artificial respiration and its vagi left intact. Between B and a third dog C was established a pancreatic-jugular anastomosis and it was found that injection of glucose into A caused the blood-sugar of C to fall and continue depressed for some hours after connection between B and C had been served.

The Medical World, reviewing the book from which these quotations are taken, mentions this experiment in detail; it describes it as “somewhat fantastic” and says further:.

This experiment is supposed to prove “beyond doubt” that the secretion of insulin is under the control of the vagus centre. Do the experimenters think it fair to deduce any conclusion from such a weird operation? Dogs naturally, not humans, were used, and they were by no means in a normal condition during the course of the experiment. Can we, therefore, accept the conclusions drawn as correct beyond doubt? All we can say is, the experimenters may be right or they may not. Further we dare not go.

Probably no one laboratory “discovery” of modern times has been responsible for more animal suffering than has insulin; and – the moral aspect apart – to what end? The rising death-rates from diabetes furnish a significant answer.

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