DLRM's decision to acquire medico-legal status grew out of recognition of the increasingly close ties between the medical and legal professions. Many lawyers now specialise in medical negligence cases, either by representing the victims of dangerous (and often experimental) drugs, medical devices and technologies (such as silicone breast implants, defective heart valves, drugs like Opren and so on) or by representing the corporations and/or makers of such drugs and technologies (Dow Corning, Shiley and Eli Lilly respectively). With respect to the former, lawyers have proven to be a formidable bulwark against irresponsible pharmaceutical companies for example, by winning huge settlements for their clients both in and out of the courts, thereby demanding greater public and social accountability.
Dr. Petrovic, Vice President of DLRM has stated,
"I think that what we need fundamentally is to formulate new human rights, new basic freedoms. What we have suggested in the Austrian Parliament is a basic right to health, so that there is a legal right to go to court if a new procedure or substance is introduced which might endanger health. The mere potential danger should enable one to do this, without having to take into account any actual damage incurred.... It is only, I believe, by consolidating the link-up of doctors against animal experiments with lawyers and politicians that we have a fair chance of achieving real progress."
Lawyers are often more willing than doctors to be outspoken about (often unpopular) social issues, without fear of the negative repercussions such as loss of grant money, jobs, and professional opportunities so commonly experienced by medical "heretics" or those who otherwise disagree with the status quo. DLRM's legal members and consultants may occasionally represent doctors who have faced discrimination from prospective or current employers as a result of their anti-vivisectionist views. They may also defend medical students who refuse to participate in "animal labs" during the course of their medical or veterinary training.
Finally, Lawyers are often knowledgeable about legislation and related matters, particularly in areas exceedingly relevant to DLRM including laws governing the production and release of genetically engineered animals and organisms, patents and patent law, informed consent/patient's rights laws, public "right to know" laws, scientific misconduct, misuse of public funds, and so on. Lawyers are in a position to challenge unjust laws and help to pass new ones. A recent article in the British Medical Journal for example (6 April 1996), stated that "calling for a ban on medical vivisection was illegal under current charity laws," because the law allegedly holds that "it is incompatible with charity status to argue against an action that is for the greater good of mankind if there is no alternative way of achieving that good." Who decides what is for the greater good? And who decides that there are not better ways of doing things? These are issues that DLRM plans to address in the coming months, beginning with the call for a moratorium on inter-species transplants at a press launch on April 30, 1996. DLRM is now actively soliciting affidavits from scientists with expertise in the fields of transplant surgery, immunology, virology, bacteriology and epidemiology, in preparation for the eventuality of legal proceedings as the only effective avenue left to call a halt to transgenic transplants involving human beings.
DLRM will continue to disseminate information and facts to the media, the general public, professional groups, regulatory agencies, and Members of Parliament. The organization's doctors and lawyers will grant television, radio, magazine and newspaper interviews, address public meetings of organised groups and societies, lectures at universities, colleges, and schools, and participate in debates. Their efforts will surely contribute to the goal of a better standard of medical research. In 1995, Dr. André Menache, DVM, now DLRM's President stated,
"It is the moral duty of an enlightened society to do everything in its power to protect its citizens from harm. In the case of medical research, there is an element of unavoidable risk. To minimise this risk, it is essential to put up as many protective shields along the way as possible. One shield is a balanced ethical committee; another shield is a system of guaranteed financial compensation. Further protection still would be afforded by a determined move by government and industry away from the present reliance on animal test."
DLRM believes that the advice and practical help of lawyers in all these endeavours is indispensable.
President: Dr André Menache, Bsc (Hons), BVSc, MRCVS, Israel.
Honorary President: Prof. Pietro Croce, MD, Italy.
Vice Presidents: Dr Michel Odent, MD, France; Mr Michael Mansfield, QC, Britain; Dr Paul Layman, MB, ChB, FFARCS, Britain; Mrs Irene Hostler, BDS (Lond), LDS, RCS (Eng), Britain; Dr Alan Stoddard, MB, BS, DPhysMed, Britain; Dr Madeleine Petrovic (Dr in Law), Austria.
Patrons: Dr Moneim Fadali, MD, USA; Dr George Haritakis, MD, Greece; Dr Werner Hartinger, MD, Germany; Dr Christopher Anderegg, MD, PhD, USA and Switzerland.
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Doctors and Lawyers for Responsible Medicine (DLRM)
104b Weston Park
London N8 9PP
Phone 44 (0)181-340-9813
Fax 44 (0)181-342-9878