Victory for Dogs in New Orleans and Pigs in Canada

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Victory for Dogs in New Orleans and Pigs in Canada

From Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)
August 2009

Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Many tales of its aftermath are heartbreaking. But some are inspiring. The story of the dogs used and killed to train medical students at Louisiana State University School of Medicine is both.

For several years, PCRM has urged the Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Medicine to replace its animal lab in favor of validated, widely implemented nonanimal alternatives.

Sadly, in 2005, the dogs scheduled to be used and killed at LSU met an even more untimely death when the facility housing them was destroyed by Katrina. After the hurricane, LSU was unable to continue its physiology animal lab for medical students—sparing the lives of countless dogs. But the school made it clear that it intended to restore the lab.

But PCRM continued to follow up, urging LSU not to reinstate the animal lab. And the university recently confirmed with PCRM physician John Pippin, M.D., that it has not reinstated the animal lab and has no plans to.

“It shouldn’t take a natural disaster like Katrina to force medical schools to replace the use of animals,” says Dr. Pippin. “What happened at LSU shows that a school’s experience with nonanimal teaching tools can quickly demonstrate that using and killing animals in a medical lab is unnecessary.”

LSU has now officially joined the more than 90 percent of medical schools in the United States that have eliminated live animal laboratories from their curricula. They are choosing nonanimal learning methods, including low-cost suturing simulators, operating room mentoring, and high-fidelity mannequin models.

PCRM’s persistent activism that saves animals from medical school labs also encourages Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) programs to choose humane replacements for the use of goats, pigs, dogs, and other animals.

In April, Dr. Pippin contacted the ATLS program director at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. He asked that the hospital stop killing pigs in its trauma training program and switch to superior nonanimal training methods. PCRM recently learned that the program has stopped using animals and now exclusively uses the TraumaMan System.

With your support, PCRM has had eight recent ATLS victories—including this first in Canada. But there’s still plenty of work to do. PCRM continues to urge the few remaining ATLS programs that use and kill animals—including Vanderbilt University Medical Center—to switch to humane training methods.

Vanderbilt's continued use of live pigs

PCRM argued that Vanderbilt’s use of live pigs in a July trauma training course violated the federal Animal Welfare Act. And in an official complaint registered with the medical center’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, Dr. Pippin said the course makes unlawful and unnecessary use of animals.

ATLS training conducted at Vanderbilt involves cutting into live, anesthetized pigs and practicing emergency medical procedures. After the training session, the animals are killed. The animals are also subjected to the trauma of confinement, shipping, and preparation for surgery. Effective nonanimal training methods have been approved by the American College of Surgeons, the body overseeing these courses.

Vanderbilt is one of the last institutions in the country using animals in such courses. Lifelike human patient simulators or human cadavers are used at more than 90 percent of U.S. facilities providing ATLS training, including University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville and Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga.

Take action here: End the Use of Pigs in Vanderbilt's Trauma Training Program.

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