WASHINGTON—Nearly two years after it was convened, a National Academy of Sciences panel is searching desperately for the middle ground in a bitter debate about the use and treatment of laboratory animals. A minority report, rare in an NAS study, seems likely to emerge from the 15-member panel, which has heard scientific discussion give way to personal attacks in the course of its nine meetings.

The latest spark stems from a Wall Street Journal editorial relating an account of an alleged conversation between panelists Michael DeBakey, the Houston heart surgeon, and Christine Stevens, president of the Animal Welfare Institute. The June 16 editorial recounts a story told by DeBakey, who is lobbying in the media against a House bill that would ban the use of pound dogs in research, about a meeting several years ago with Stevens at a congressional hearing on lab animals.

According to DeBakey, Stevens thanked him...

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