Victory for Sheep in Minnesota, Pigs in New Jersey

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Victory for Sheep in Minnesota, Pigs in New Jersey

From Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)

A nonanimal training movement is revolutionizing medical training. Last month, the University of Minnesota Medical School announced that it will stop using sheep in its emergency medicine clerkship. And the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey ended a trauma training course that used and killed live, anesthetized pigs to practice surgical procedures.

At the University of Minnesota, this shift completes the school’s move away from animal use toward simulators. The announcement follows the official complaint PCRM filed in April 2008 with the U.S. Department of Agriculture citing the university’s unlawful use of live animals. Since the complaint was filed, PCRM cardiologist John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., has corresponded with university faculty and administrators outlining human-centered alternatives that could replace the use of animals in the course.

Recently, Joseph Clinton, M.D., head of the school’s department of emergency medicine, sent a letter to PCRM stating that the university has “markedly curtailed the use of live animals for medical student education in emergency medicine” and “will have completely phased out their use by December 31, 2009.”

“Our students are being taught using simulation models including some of those you cited in your communication,” Dr. Clinton wrote in his letter to Dr. Pippin. Last year, the university replaced the use of pigs in its surgery clerkship with training tools in its SimPORTAL simulation center.

University of Minnesota officially joins the more than 95 percent of medical schools in the United States that have eliminated live animal laboratories from their curricula.

But it’s not only university and hospital administrators in medical schools who are responding positively to PCRM’s requests to switch to nonanimal training methods. The same trend is at work in Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) programs that teach procedures designed to respond to acute trauma injuries.

University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s (UMDNJ’s) University Hospital recently joined the four other New Jersey trauma training programs, including UMDNJ’s programs at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Cooper University Hospital, that had stopped using animals.

Last year, PCRM filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture against UMDNJ’s unlawful use of animals. The complaint cited an ongoing PCRM survey showing that 95 percent of responding ATLS institutions used only nonanimal models—such as the TraumaMan System, a high-fidelity simulator—for ATLS instruction.

Thousands of doctors, alumni, and concerned citizens like you persuaded UMDNJ to stop practicing surgical procedures on live, anesthetized pigs in its ATLS program. You can do the same at Massachusetts General Hospital. It has one of the last programs in the country using animals in such courses, although effective nonanimal training methods have been approved by the American College of Surgeons, the body overseeing these courses.

Sign PCRM’s petition asking Mass General to end the cruel and outdated use of live sheep in its trauma training courses. And if you are in the Boston area, join PCRM’s educational demonstration at Mass General on Oct. 15, just days before the hospital’s next ATLS course.