Specialising in Peer-Review and Ethics

Kill or sacrifice?


The word ‘sacrifice’ was widely used to describe the killing of animals after an experiment until stylebooks bitterly protested against it. Neville Goodman and Martin Edwards in their book Medical Writing a Prescription for Clarity write “A sacrifice is a religious rite, or (COD) the giving up of a valued thing for the sake of another that is more worthy or more important or more urgent. Do not use sacrifice when you mean kill. A similar debasement is likely to happen to assassinate if the media persist in applying it to the murder of hoodlums and terrorists”. I have yet to come across assassinated rats in the documents I edit but ‘euthanasia’ has crept in. Webster’s dictionary defines ‘euthanasia’ as “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy”. The spirit of this definition is hardly that the person responsible for the euthanasia also caused the sickness or injury. The truth is that animals are killed and this is the word to use. Murder and homicide only relate to humans and slaughter is to kill animals for food or to kill in a bloody and violent manner.


response supplied by Elise Langdon-Neuner, EIC of “The Write Stuff” official journal of EMWA (European Medical Writers Association)