This work by Mr. Paget is entirely a labour of love. Not being himself engaged in researches involving experiments upon the lower animals, he is not directly interested in the subject. But, in his official capacity as Secretary (1887-1899) to the Association for the Advancement of Medicine by Research, he has become widely conversant with such investigations, and has been deeply impressed with the greatness of the benefits which they have conferred upon mankind, and the grievous mistake that is made by those who desire to suppress them.
The action of these well-meaning persons is based upon ignorance. They allow that man is permitted to inflict pain upon the lower animals when some substantial advantage is to be gained; but they deny that any good has ever resulted from the researches which they condemn.
How far such statements are from the truth will be evident to those who peruse this book. Its earlier pages deal with Physiology, the main basis of all sound medicine and surgery. The examples given in this department are not numerous; they are, however, sufficiently striking, as indications that, from the discovery of the circulation of the blood onwards, our knowledge of healthy animal function has been mainly derived from experiments on animals.x
The chief bulk of the work is devoted to the class of investigations which are most frequent at the present day; and it shows what a flood of light has been already thrown by Bacteriology upon the nature of human disease and the means of combating it.
The chapter on the Action of Drugs will be to many a startling disclosure of the gross ignorance that prevailed among physicians even in the earlier part of last century. The great revolution that has since taken place is no doubt largely due to advances in sciences other than Biology, especially Chemistry. But it could not have attained its present proportions without the ever-increasing knowledge of Physiology, based on experiments on animals; and Mr. Paget shows how large a share these have had in the direct investigation of articles of the Materia Medica.
The concluding part of the volume discusses the restrictions which have been placed by the legislature in this country on those engaged in these researches, with the view of obviating possible abuse. Whether the Act in question has been really useful, whether it has not done more harm than good, by hampering and sometimes entirely preventing legitimate and beneficent investigation, I will not now discuss.
Meanwhile I commend Mr. Paget's book to the careful consideration of the reader.