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Abstract

I had the privilege of chairing the Institute of Medicine Committee on the Necessity of Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research in 2011, an effort that has lessons not only about the questions presented to it, but also about the policy and practice of the use of chimpanzees in research and about animal research policy in general. In this essay I will assess the impact and implications of the committee's work and at the same time clarify what I see as its limits. All in all, I believe it is fair to say that the committee's recommendations and the process of its work represent a success for bioethics-related consensus committees. The combination of topic, timing, and public stakeholder sentiment may have aligned in unique ways that contributed to that success. But even if it turns out to be a special case of sorts, there are lessons to be learned for the future.