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Experiences' of Health science students' in relation to the use of laboratory animals for experimental research purposes : a phenomenological inquiry.

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The use of laboratory animals for research purposes has been debated for many years. Animal rights movements are strongly opposed to using animals for research purposes. There is also an argument that animal research is fundamental in the medical field to improve medical procedures and to develop new medical methods and treatments. Previous studies have primarily focused on issues of an ethical and moral nature regarding animal treatment, or on veterinarian sciences and animal shelter workers experiences. To my knowledge there is limited research focusing on postgraduate students’ experience and this research aims to address the gap. The study aims to explore the experiences of novice postgraduate research students using laboratory animals for their research and the influence of these experiences on their understanding of animal research and their psychological challenges. A qualitative approach was adopted using phenomenology as a framework and theory. Van Kaam’s descriptive phenomenological analysis was used to analyse eight email facilitated questionnaires completed by postgraduate students studying at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) Biomedical Research Unit. The themes that emerged were: The moral dilemma; the experience of guilt; role expectation to improve quality of human life; deterrents factors to the animal experience; coping strategies and beliefs about the BRU education programme. The findings revealed participates faced several challenges linked to conducting research on animals in terms of under-preparedness, emotional well-being and moral stressors. Recommendations include for more effective preparation methods and practice for students using animals for research purposes and to implement psychological services to assist those students experiencing difficulties due to the research process.


M. Soc. Sc. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2014.


Laboratory animals--Psychological aspects--Students., Animal experimentation--Moral and ethical aspects., Animal models in research--Moral and ethical aspects., Medicine--Research., Theses--Psychology.