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Campaigns So Where do Aspiring Doctors Still Carve up Animals?
So Where do Aspiring Doctors Still Carve up Animals?
THE JOURNAL NEWS, 8/14/06 (alert follows)
They're among the best medical schools in the country. They're the top of the top. And, as the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine likes to point out, they don't encourage students to cut apart dogs, pigs, rabbits or any other live animals as part of their course work.
Simulators work just as well, at least in the view of two-thirds of the medical schools in the country.
So where do aspiring doctors still carve up animals? At the New York Medical College in Valhalla for one. The school continues to use dogs for its first-year students to operate on.
"This college like many other medical schools believes that it's the best way to teach physicians, to use live animals in some circumstances," said William Steadman, the school's vice provost and senior associate dean for administration.
New York Medical College describes itself as a health sciences university in the Roman Catholic tradition. It has 760 students enrolled in the School of Medicine. The animal lab is part of a first-year course on physiology that in the past has used about 15 to 20 dogs a year.
Its disagreement with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is nothing new. Ten years ago, the same group called on the medical school to stop using animals. Ten years ago the school answered the same way: The labs, during which the dogs are sliced open so students can watch how their bodies function, provide a hands-on experience that can't be duplicated.
The school seems to be on the losing end of the debate. However much New York Medical College hangs on, most medical schools are abandoning the practice. In 1985, nearly three-quarters of the schools used live animals. Compare that to today. If the trend continues, the numbers could soon be reversed.
This is not about using animals for research. Arguing that all animal research should be eliminated — as the physicians committee also would do — is more difficult. If to me it seems barbaric, to others it's the price we pay for medical advances that will save human lives.
This is about training medical students, and with so many schools using simulators, how do you justify killing these dogs. Because the dogs are killed at the end of the training sessions.
Do they suffer? It depends on whom you listen to. The medical college says the dogs are fully anesthetized. Opponents — including doctors from the physicians committee — say there's no guarantee. Dr. John J. Pippin, the group's medical adviser, said that when he was in medical school in the late 1970s at the University of Massachusetts in Worcester, his table botched its task. Even worse, the dog was half-awake, he said.
It's not difficult to imagine. These are students after all, and they are inexperienced. That's the point.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has been accused of being a front of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. (One of its chief accusers, the Center for Consumer Freedom, is funded by the restaurant and food industry.) The committee responds that it is a separate organization. It does oppose using animals in testing. It does advocate low-fat vegan diets. It has gotten money from PETA in the past, though it's gotten money from other groups, too. The National Institutes of Health partially funded its recent diabetes study that found a vegan diet did a better job at glycemic control than one recommended by the American Diabetes Association.
But all of this seems beside the point. Allowing medical students to slice apart dogs is still gruesome, whoever's doing the objecting. Especially if there are alternatives.
In June, the physicians committee wrote to 12 of the 19 schools it believes still use animals and this time the group is trying to turn the federal Animal Welfare Act to its advantage. The act requires that laboratories reduce the use of animals when possible. The physicians committee argues that because well established alternatives exist, animals shouldn't be used at all.
As a result of the physicians committee's campaign, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is sending inspectors to a number of medical schools, including New York Medical College. An inspector already visited the Medical College of Wisconsin. She notes in her report that regulations require the college to justify why it has not substituted alternatives to live animals. There are alternatives, she says. She found them.
New York Medical College last reviewed its use of animal labs two years ago. It concluded that there was still no substitute for the sensory and experimental components of the laboratory exercise.
Traditions die hard. Here's to a quick and painless death.
PLEASE CROSS POST
NY Medical College in Valhalla continues to conduct a dog lab, even though a majority of other medical schools have phased out this inhumane, unnecessary cruelty.
There are 126 medical schools in the nation; only 20 still offer dog labs, and 19 of them make it optional, admitting that it is not essential to learning the necessary information or skills.
During the dog lab, drugs are administered and the students touch the dog's heart; the dog is then killed. Eight dogs are used. Students who opt out are given dog data in place of the lab.
Harvard, Yale and Stamford do not use live animal labs. Simulators are so superior that two insurance companies have started to offer reduced rates on malpractice insurance to those who've been trained on simulators.
This is a contentious issue: NY Medical College held a panel recently which included two 'op out' students, and two students who enjoyed the dog lab. PCRM requested to send a doctor to present an alternative viewpoint, and was denied. Only one M.D. actually got to speak, and he was pro dog lab, so a fair and balanced forum was denied.
For this school to make this unconscionable choice in this day and age is reprehensible. Dog labs are the most easily replaced medical 'teaching' tools. To subject dogs, who feel pain and fear just like people do, to unnecessary cruelty, is disgraceful. This teaches cruelty, as well - doctors should conduct themselves, and treat others, with compassion.
Please make the following contacts which have been provided by Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine (www.pcrm.org):
Norman Levine, Ph.D. (914) 594-4105 This is the doctor who was at the debate; he is the Physiology department coordinator.
DR. BELLONI TEACHES THE DOG LAB:
New York Medical College
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