Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter
15 December 2011 Issue

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It is unnecessary to traumatize and harm animals in flawed and archaic testing procedures

Cats Endure Bleeding and Bruising in University of Virginia Training Program

Live cats are used in a cruel pediatrics residency training program at the University of Virginia. PCRM’s recent federal complaint says this is unlawful and that the university already owns a simulator that better mimics newborn anatomy.

Pediatrics training at the University of Virginia (UVA) includes repeatedly forcing a plastic tube through the mouth and into the windpipe (trachea) of a live cat. Animals used in this training procedure often suffer tracheal bruising, bleeding, scarring, severe pain, and they are at risk of death.

“It is unnecessary to traumatize and harm animals to teach pediatric emergency procedures, especially when validated simulators developed to replace animals are widely used,” says Josie Kinkade, M.D., a local physician who co-signed the federal complaint. “A newborn’s anatomy is different from a cat’s, and residents at UVA can get a better education using human based medical simulators.”

UVA’s state-of-the-art medical simulation center already owns a simulator validated for this training. Numerous pediatrics residencies use the Gaumard Premie HAL and Premie Blue simulators, which mimic the airway of a low birth weight premature newborn.

PCRM’s complaint, which was filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Eastern Region Animal Care office, states, “UVA is violating the AWA because superior training methods exist that could replace the university’s use of live animals and alleviate this severe pain.” The complaint also cites inadequate oversight in the approval of the training protocol by the school’s animal care and use committee.

The Animal Welfare Act’s implementing regulations “require that a principal investigator—including course instructors—consider alternatives to procedures that may cause more than momentary or slight pain or distress to any animal used for research purposes.”

Nonanimal education methods are exclusively used by 94 percent of U.S. pediatrics programs, including those at Eastern Virginia Medical School, Inova Fairfax Hospital and Hospital for Children, and Virginia Commonwealth University Health System in Richmond, according to an ongoing PCRM survey.


Ethics in Pediatrics Training

The use of live animals in pediatrics residency training was once a common practice. Today, however, the vast majority of these courses use nonanimal teaching tools.

Animals in Pediatric Residencies

The primary emergency procedure taught in pediatric residency training is endotracheal intubation, a medical procedure in which a tube is placed into the windpipe (trachea) through the mouth, or sometimes through the nose. In the past, most pediatric residencies used cats or ferrets to train their residents in this procedure.

Animals are typically used over and over for intubation training. Animals used in these training procedures often suffer tracheal bruising, bleeding, scarring, severe pain, and even death. The anatomical differences between these animals and humans render this type of training ineffective.

Moreover, specifically developed simulators can completely replace the use of animals in pediatric residency programs. In fact, studies have shown that these simulators are educationally superior to the crude and outdated methodology of using live animals.

Louis Halamek, M.D., F.A.A.P., co-chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Neonatal Resuscitation Program steering committee, and his colleagues stated in 2000 that “[r]ealistic simulation-based training in neonatal resuscitation is possible using current technology, is well received by trainees, and offers benefits not inherent in traditional paradigms of medical education.”1 Given the subsequent development of Laerdal’s SimNewB and other neonatal simulators designed to teach endotracheal intubation, Dr. Halamek’s statement is even truer today than it was at the time.

More recently, Cindy Tait, R.N., M.P.H., one of the developers of the American Heart Association’s Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) course, remarked: “The bottom line is that there is no need to traumatize and harm animals to teach [intubation and airway management skills], especially when highly effective non-animal methods are the accepted standard of practice and readily available to instructors.”2

Furthermore, studies have demonstrated that those who engage in simulator-based training display great proficiency in intubation compared with those who train with either animals or even human patients. The authors of a 2001 study noted that the oropharyngeal anatomy of animals differs vastly from that of humans, and as a result intubation techniques used in animals are also different from that used in humans.3

Another study found that transport team members who were trained on simulators displayed higher proficiency in pediatric intubation (92 percent overall) than pediatric residents who had learned pediatric intubation using cats (77 percent overall).4 The authors noted that “[t]raining on mannequins allows for greater concentration by the trainee on technique. Without the urgency to place the tube, which is felt when practicing on animals or humans, the trainee is much more open to suggestions or corrections.”


Beyond Animal Research
By Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D.
December 2005

Homeopathy: Healing Some, Harming Others

My local paper recently profiled the Samueli Institute for Information Biology (SIIB), a nonprofit medical research organization that emphasizes complementary medicine, such as acupuncture and homeopathy, a system of medical practice that treats a disease especially by the administration of minute doses of a remedy that would in healthy persons produce symptoms similar to those of the disease.

The organization’s stated mission is strongly geared towards healing, and its goals include alleviating suffering, enhancing well being, and establishing sustainable healthcare approaches. So far, so good.

Then I noticed that the article mentioned animal studies.

Troubled and somewhat incredulous that animals might be harmed in homeopathy studies, I visited the SIIB website. Among dozens of laudable clinical studies, the site also described two ongoing homeopathy studies using animals, including one in which rats are infected with viruses and killed.

Delving further, I soon learned that animal studies of homeopathy have been going on for more than 20 years. Here is a sample:

Plainly, these studies were not done in the interests of the animals involved. Harming these animals makes a mockery of claims of healing and underscores a profound indifference toward others. A comprehensively healing medicine should include all feeling species in its purview and uphold the following values from SIIB’s own list: beneficence, integrity, respect, and joy. My next column will explore approaches


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