thimble, a monkey orphaned by Spindel's experiments

This is Thimble

Thimble's mother was used in senseless nicotine experiments conducted by Eliot Spindel at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland, Oregon. Workers gave Thimble her diminutive name because she was so tiny—removed from her mother's uterus before she'd reached full-term. According to Spindel's standard procedure for his diabolical nicotine experiments, Thimble was to have been subjected to lung tests after spending a frightening night alone in an incubator. Then she would have been bled to death and dissected. Due to complications with her birth, Spindel rejected Thimble for his experiments and she was allowed to live—eventually being used to breed more unfortunate monkeys for Spindel and others at OHSU to kill in experiments.

Click here to read Thimble's story.

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Spindel has received an astounding $7.6 million from the NIH since 1992 to conduct experiments like those on babies such as Thimble, and their mothers. He is scheduled to get funds from the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to continue killing baby monkeys until 2012!


Lazy is one word to describe Spindel for taking easy federal money for years to study the effects of nicotine on infant monkeys. Instead of developing a relevant system of studying the effects of nicotine on human smokers and their infants, he has made a comfortable living off a continual stream of federal grants using unwilling subjects whose complaints will never be heard without us.


From 1998-2000, IDA's Matt Rossell went undercover as a primate caretaker at OHSU where he photographed sweet Thimble and other monkeys used in deadly experiments, and wrote in his diary the horrible reality of what he witnessed daily:

"In some of Spindel's experiments, the babies were taken through cesarean section surgery before their due date. I witnessed some of the mothers post-surgery with the same signs of clinical depression that women suffer from after going through the emotional tragedy of losing a stillborn baby."

Mother monkeys' instincts to care for their offspring are as strong as those of human mothers.

Some monkey mothers were allowed to keep their babies for several weeks or months before having them torn away for experiments. The agony endured by these animals is unimaginable. Again, in Matt Rossell's words:

"Among the most horrifying things I witnessed at the lab were the times when baby monkeys were stolen away from their mothers. This was a chaotic, ugly, heart-wrenching scene. A worker wearing thick leather gloves would reach into the cage where the baby clung to her mother's breast, and snatch the baby by one shoulder and arm and rip her from her mother who was screaming and desperately fighting to keep her baby safe. Once removed, the entire room of monkeys would erupt into total pandemonium—screaming, thrashing and crashing against the sides of their cages—some even reaching out through the bars in vain to get the baby back."


Cruel is the only way to describe the actual experiments Spindel conducts on female monkeys who are impregnated and subjected to multiple surgeries to implant nicotine pumps in their backs. The monkeys endure multiple surgeries as the pumps must be changed up to five times during their pregnancies. Steady doses of nicotine are delivered to the pregnant monkeys and their babies are cut out of their wombs at various stages of development in order to dissect their lungs.


At OHSU, as at other experimental laboratories, an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) reviews all proposed experiments before they go forward. Matt Rossell, who sat on the OHSU IACUC when Spindel's nicotine experiments were up for review said: "There was literally no discussion; the grant was approved without question. The IACUC is made of employees of the lab all with a vested interest to approve these proposals. It's just a rubber stamp committee that gives the illusion of oversight."

Careless IACUC approval is the first domino that falls, creating a cascade of waste and death. IACUCs are supposed to determine if the same information could be obtained without using animals. In the case of nicotine's effect on infants born to smoking mothers, it is clear that such information could be mined from human clinical studies—and would have direct relevance to humans. Animal data is so unreliable, that for decades, the tobacco industry used it to "prove" that nicotine is not harmful. It was only through human studies that the link between tobacco consumption and cancer, heart disease, and other pulmonary illnesses was proved.


Here's how Eliot Spindel justifies his horrible and deadly experiments:

"Although a number of studies have shown a strong association between maternal cigarette smoking and spontaneous abortion, preterm delivery, low birth weight, and neonatal morbidity and mortality, 10-20% of women still smoke during pregnancy. Infants born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy are more prone to respiratory ailments and compromised lung function. Epidemiologic studies...have identified significantly increased incidence of bronchitis and hospital admissions for lower respiratory illness in the infants of mothers who smoked during pregnancy... ."


Spindel himself admits that information from human clinical studies is available. Our job is to convince the open-handed government that we want all money currently spent on nicotine experiments on animals to go to education, prevention, and smoking cessation efforts. If animal experiments are allowed to continue, the tobacco industry will no doubt look to unscrupulous researchers like Spindel to come up with a way to make it possible for pregnant women to smoke without harming their babies. IDA's president, Elliot Katz, has written to OHSU about ending Spindel's experiments.

You can help us stop him.

Please write polite letters demanding that your tax dollars be redirected from Spindel's experiments into useful efforts to help people stop smoking and to keep our youth from ever starting.

Joseph Robertson Jr., MD
President OHSU
3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Rd.
Portland, OR 97239-3098
Tel: (503) 494-8252
Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D.
Director, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
Building 31, Room 5A48
31 Center Dr. MSC 2486
Bethesda, MD 20892
Tel.: (301) 496-5166