COLUMBIA, S.C.—The University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Columbia is operating in violation of federal law by using live animals in its emergency medicine training program, according to a complaint that will be filed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine—a national nonprofit of 12,000 concerned physicians—on Aug. 25, 2016.
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.” The Physicians Committee’s complaint will be filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Eastern Region Animal Care office. It cites inadequate oversight of the training protocol by the school’s animal care and use committee.
“Human-based methods provide better training for emergency medicine residents and are used by the vast majority of other emergency medicine programs,” says John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee. According to Dr. Pippin, the University of South Carolina’s failure to justify its use of animals is a violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act.
Emergency medicine training at USC School of Medicine in Columbia currently involves cutting into live pigs to practice procedures. Trainees are instructed to cut into an animal’s throat, chest cavity, and veins to insert tubes; and to split open the breastbone in order to access the heart and perform various cardiac procedures. If the animals survive these procedures, they are killed before the final procedures are taught.
Eighty-eight percent of U.S. emergency medicine residency programs (141 of 160) surveyed by the Physicians Committee use only nonanimal, human-based education methods, including USC’s Greenville program, Duke University, the Medical University of South Carolina, and Emory University.
USC already has a state-of-the-art training center in Columbia—the Palmetto Health USC School of Medicine Simulation Center—that could provide the resources to replace the use of animals in its emergency medicine residency.
For a copy of the federal complaint or to interview Dr. Pippin or a local physician, please contact Reina Pohl at 202-527-7326 or RPohl@PCRM.org.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research and medical training.