Medical Science, 1986 - 96 (interrupted)
University of Frankfurt and University of Witten / Herdecke, Germany

I was the first student in Germany who won against her university a lawsuit for a study without animal misuse.

In 1986 I began to study human medicine at the University of Frankfurt. Besides the dissections in the biology practical which can be avoided by students, there are also in the programme the well-known frog experiments in the physiology practical. During the first three semesters (the physiology practical takes place in the fourth) I tried several times to convince the professors of the necessity to offer alternatives, but I had no success. I conscientiously objected to the experiments and as a result I did not get the certificate for the physiology course.

Because it was impossible to reach agreement with the professors I had to take my university to court. In July 1988 the lawsuit began at the administrative court in Frankfurt. I wanted the university to become obliged to offer me alternative practical methods that would not involve the killing of animals. I referred to my personal freedom of conscience, but also to the animal protection law. The university proclaimed that the experiments were necessary and that I could go to another university if I didn't like to take part in them. They also said that I would not have to carry out the experiments with my own hands, but they insisted on me watching the experiment and taking notes.

It took two years until finally, in October 1990, the judicial hearing on the first level took place. The court's decision followed two months later: I was right. The court gave more weight to my freedom of conscience than to a professor's freedom of teaching. There was great interest in the public. But the university did not accept this decision and took the case to a higher court. Another year passed until the second judicial hearing was held. The court in Kassel (second level) again decided that I was right. The judges stated that I may not be forced to take part in experiments for which animals are killed.

Unfortunately the court's decision is a bit unclear: because the judgement does not explicitly exclude the use of animals that have been killed for other animal experiments and not the practical in question, it left the university the (unexpected) possibility to again try to force me to take part in the experiments. The university saw the weakness in the judges' decision immediately, and offered me to do the same experiments on frogs which had been killed at a research institute for other purposes. Of course I also refused to take part in experiments on these animals, and I decided to continue my study at another university where no animal experiments and dissections are done. I completed my studies and qualified at the University of Witten/Herdecke. But the lawsuit has not been in vain because it built the foundations for many other lawsuits in Germany.