Vervet monkeys interact on top of a roof in the costal town of St Lucia, South Africa. Vervet monkeys serve as a nonhuman primate model for understanding genetic and social behaviors of humans. (Schalk van Zuydam/Associated Press)

Congress asked the National Institutes of Health to review “its ethical policies and processes” on nonhuman primate research “to ensure it has appropriate justification for animal research protocols.” The NIH held its primate research workshop this month but sadly ignored Congress’s request to review the ethical policies associated with primate research. Out of 10 scheduled presentations, five were updates about research programs and five were descriptions of the current regulatory framework.

Describing the benefits of an action is not a review of its ethical justification. What sets ethical behavior apart from living purely in accordance with self-interest is the fact that living according to an ethical perspective means that there are constraints on what actions we should take even when those actions have benefits. The NIH needs to take a serious look at the ethics of its research on primates.

Adam Shriver, Philadelphia

The writer is a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Neuroscience and Society.