SAVING MOLLY by James Mahoney


A Research Veterinarian's Choices
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The life story, and heartrending ruminations, of Mahoney, a good veterinarian operating in the suspect terrain of medical research on primates. Mahoney is the former acting director of LEMSIP, the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates, at New York University. The creatures under his command—from rhesus monkeys to chimpanzees, baboons to marmosets—were subjects used in the search for vaccines and cures for such diseases as AIDS and hepatitis. But Mahoney is no vivisectionist ghoul. Although he sees “no alternative to using animals in research,” he well understands that the animals pay a heavy price for their involuntary contribution: physically, emotionally, psychologically. And trained in compassion, he is not unaware of the irony involved in his work, the nexus of veterinary and human medicine, where any Hippocratic oath sworn by vets toward animals is subsumed by the need for answers to human ailments. He has worked hard to eliminate the ghetto conditions for animals in research facilities, to ameliorate the shattering isolation experienced by infected primates, to erase euthanasia as the fate of no-longer-useful test subjects; yet he also holds “the conviction that without using animals in research we wouldn’t be able to make the advances in medical knowledge that have greatly improved human health.” As Mahoney sits on his ethical fence, he plays these conundrums against his saving of a newborn bush dog, Molly, an archetypal flea-bitten runt of the litter, with worms and eyes matted shut with pus, brought home from a vacation in Jamaica. But the story of Molly, warm and crisis-ridden and ultimately gratifying as it is, feels like a contrivance to demonstrate the extraordinary lengths Mahoney will go to for an animal, even as he sends others off for acute, terminal studies. Mahoney’s heart and soul are in suspension--he loves his primate charges, he kills his primate charges; even his gentling kindness doesn’t let him off the hook, and he knows it.

Pub Date: July 3rd, 1998
ISBN: 1-56512-173-2
Page count: 252pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998


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