What kind of additional medical knowledge could be obtained if vivisection were legal?

See subject.

You meant to specify “human vivisection,” I assume. And it’s worth noting that experimental surgeries are done even on humans under various levels of oversight.

Yes, human vivisection.

I’m not a doctor, and speculating, but I’d guess “not much any more.” We can image virtually any sub-system in the body while it’s acting normally, toss up 3D renderings of organs in real-time, and perform exploratory surgery (which I’ll assume doesn’t meet your definition of “vivisection”) in cases where we need to look deeper.

A hundred years ago, when anatomy was much less understood, and being able to see things “functioning” rather than speculating about them from corpses–it was probably a lot more valuable. Or would have been, if the overlap of “people willing to do human vivisection” and “people who can actually advance science” were sufficiently large. (It probably helped that as you go back in time, there are larger numbers of people that society doesn’t count as “people,” I suppose.)

If I were vivisecting people (“for Science!”), I’d also worry about the vivisection itself putting so much stress on the body that it would taint my results, sort of a macroscopic uncertainty principle.

Vivisection ain’t exactly my field, but we could sure learn a lot if we completely abandoned morality and started doing genetic experimentation on humans. The long generation time would be a pain in the neck, of course.

I’m pretty sure that’s just called “dating” now.

Given our current technology, I can’t imagine there’s anything much to be learned. We have all kinds of imaging options like X-ray, electrodes, camera pills, colonoscopy, MRI, CAT, etc. that can view the subject with virtually no harm and minimal stress. We have surgical techniques that range from minimally harmful laparoscopy to open-heart surgery and we can even transplant most organs. Heck, we can even do brain surgery that keeps the patient conscious and talking while we probe sections of the brain.

100 years ago when none of these options were available, I suppose vivisection might have provided some useful information.

A similiar point was brought up in one of my college classes regarding children and developmental psychology.

People will their bodies to science all the time. Some are used for basically viviscection, some end up places like a body farm. I’m sure some go to research I can’t, and don’t want to, imagine.

We could directly diagnose people as transsexual without waiting for them to die so we can visually inspect the insides of their brain (last I heard, a scan can’t see the difference but a direct look can). Of course they’d be dead afterwards, so there’d be little point.

We’d probably be able to learn quite a lot by long term direct observation of living human brains in operation. Scientists have replaced the skulls of monkeys with a transparent casing for the purpose, and gotten useful data from it.

The “vivi” in “vivisection” means “alive”. There’s a difference between cutting up a corpse and looking at it, and cutting up a living, functioning organism.

Opportunities for doing the last (whilst conforming to the strict ethics rules that are enforced in civilized countries) are very rare, and even when they do occur what can actually be done, ethically, is very limited. There are good reasons for this. Direct probing of the brain (which is done extensively with other species, mostly monkeys) is not harmless or safe. Most certainly a great deal could be learned about the human brain if researchers were routinely allowed to probe it directly with microelectrodes. Despite all the publicity they receive, imaging technologies like MRI are extremely crude in comparison. They provide very poor resolution, both temporal and spatial, compared to microelectrode techniques.

Frankly, I doubt whether this is true at at all, but even if it is, there is a much better way -both much more reliable, easier to do, and much less dangerous - of finding out if someone is a transsexual: ask them how they feel about their biological gender and their sexuality. If someone does not feel uncomfortable with their anatomical gender, and wish they were the other, then they are not transsexual, whatever their brain anatomy may be like. On the other hand, if they do feel that way then they are transsexual, whatever their brain may be like.

If their brain indicates differently, the relevant theory about the brain is wrong.

The difficulty there is that the only way to know someone’s feelings is to ask about them, and some people lie about such matters.

A great deal of advanced surgery and related medical treatments have come out of combat. That’s pretty close.

Sure, but in matters like this, asking (and there are various ways to ask, of course, and often clues as to whether someone is lying or not) is a lot more reliable than examining their brain, and is likely to remain so for a very long time, if not forever.

In cases like this, what someone feels is the criterion of their having a certain mental condition, your best access to how they fell is through what they say, and any brain evidence is no more than a sign or correlate. What would you think about a situation where a doctor was trying to tell someone (even you, maybe) that they were transsexual on the sole evidence of a brain scan, and despite the fact that they vehemently deny it? (Or, come to that, vice-versa, where someone desperately insists that they want to live as the opposite sex but are told that they are not a “real” transsexual because they do not have some alleged neuroanatomical marker of the condition?)

Even if you have strong evidence (and of course we don’t, and are unlikely to in the foreseeable future) that some particular brain abnormality causes transsexuallity (or whatever other mental condition you like) it is big step further to know whether it is either a necessary or sufficient cause (and your only way of finding out will be to study how people with and without the brain marker actually behave, including, particularly, what they say).


Vivisection isn’t legal ?
Brain dead means legally dead, so anything goes after that.


One idea is to find a substance that reverses the poisoning of the brain’s cells, so that they are no longer ‘dead’ ! Basically, when low in oyxgen, the cells of the brain produce substances that poisons them… they are impossible to restart to working even when there’s plenty of oxygen. So why not restart them ?
or at least prevent the poisoning occuring ? And thats why you’d need lots of dead or dying patients to test the idea on … give them the substance just before death, and then see if the brain can be kept alive… (brain bank… waiting for the day that the stroke victim can be given a new brain… )

For what it’s worth Imperial Japan’s infamous Unit 731 actually did hundreds of live ‘autopsies’ if you will during their conquest of east Asia. Killed more civilians than the Nazis did. One of the worst things was how after the war we were so worried about the Soviets & their technology that we gave amnesty to most all of the Japanese doctors who committed these atrocities in exchange for their data. Turns out the data was worthless, though this was at least in part because their scientific experiments were sloppily done. Some of it was nothing more than ruthless torture under the guise of ‘science’.

Given that any major surgical procedure ***has ***to be done under anesthesia for the patient to live thru it I can’t see what human vivisection could really teach us.

That appears to be an campaigning site, and a very questionable source. Everything I have read on the history of medicine suggests that, for religious reasons (pagan, and, later, both Christian and Islamic), dissection of human corpses, let alone human vivisection was virtually unknown in the Roman era and through the middle ages, which accounts for the lamentable state of anatomical knowledge in Europe up until the Renaissance, when human corpse dissection began to be practiced by Vesalius and others. Much of what the Romans and their most important medical thinker, Galen, did know about human anatomy came from the earlier work of Herophilos and Erasistratus who were based in Ptolemaic Egypt, in Alexandria, in the third century BC. Almost uniquely in the ancient world (presumably because of the close patronage of the Ptolemaic ‘Pharaohs’) they were able to practice human corpse dissection, and on some accounts human vivisection too (though that may just be a nasty rumor spread by their, or the Ptolemys’, enemies - the ones who didn’t get executed and dissected!). In any case their work was very important and they discovered the central nervous system and much about the vascular system (although not that the blood circulates). (If they had actually practiced human vivisection it seems unlikely that they would have made some of the mistakes they did make, such as thinking that the arteries - as opposed to veins - carry breath rather than blood.) Their findings, sometimes in distorted form, were passed on to Galen at around the end of the first century AD, and then, largely from him, to later ages. (Both Christian and Islamic medical theory relied very heavily on Galen’s works.)

Galen himself, despite having the patronage of the Emperor, did not perform human corpse dissection (let alone vivisection). It was just not the done thing. Galen did, however, do quite a bit of animal dissection, and unfortunately he assumed that some of the structures he found in animals would occur in humans too. The resulting errors did not get corrected until Vesalius’s time, when human corpse dissection began again.