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Action Alerts University of Rochester criticized for training doctors on live pigs Published in the Democrat and Chronicle, 5/22 (alert follows):
University of Rochester criticized for training doctors on live pigs
Published in the Democrat and Chronicle, 5/22 (alert follows):
"UR criticized for training doctors on live pigs"
D.C. advocacy group says it violates Animal Welfare Act
(May 22, 2006) — Each year, more than six dozen doctors-in-training at the University of Rochester's medical school spend a day operating on anesthetized pigs to get firsthand experience working on live tissue.
Twenty years ago, animals commonly were used in medical school training.
Today that practice has largely ended, according to a survey by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C., which advocates the end of live animal use in medical research and education.
"It's been a long time since learning in medical schools needed to depend on live animals," said John Pippin, medical adviser for the committee.
Of the 125 U.S. medical schools accredited by the Association of American Medical Colleges, a dozen — including UR's — received letters this month from the advocacy group arguing that the federal Animal Welfare Act bans the use of live animals in surgical training because alternatives, such as computer simulations, are available.
UR uses the hogs because technology falls short of simulating unanticipated problems doctors might see in operating or emergency rooms, such as hemorrhages and variations in anatomy, said Jeff Wyatt, UR attending veterinarian and chairman of its department of comparative medicine.
"We feel this lab offers the students a tangible connection to the real world the models don't offer," he said. "We're using this pig lab because it works."
Though animals "may anatomically have some of the same organs that we do, ... their biology is fundamentally different — the way they respond to drugs, their tolerance for certain procedures students might do," Pippin said.
If UR won't end its use of animals in surgical training, the advocacy group will ask the federal Agriculture Department to investigate whether the medical school is in violation of the Animal Welfare Act, Pippin said.
The pigs are used in a surgical clerkship for third-year medical students.
About 20 percent of third-year students do not participate in the optional exercise, Wyatt said.
But nearly every student who participates in the lab gives it a good review afterward, he said.
The pigs used in the training never come out of anesthesia and are euthanized at the end of the lab, Wyatt said.
As required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, UR has an institutional review board, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, made up of UR scientists, veterinarians and community members, that meets monthly and oversees all of the university's research and teaching involving live animals.
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