COLUMBIA, Mo.—The University of Missouri Columbia School of Medicine is violating federal law by using live animals in its emergency medicine training program, according to a complaint that will be filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on July 20 by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine—a national nonprofit of 12,000 physicians. The vast majority of emergency medicine residency programs in the United States only use human-based methods, such as medical simulation, to train residents.
The latest figures show that 89 percent of U.S. emergency medicine residency programs (150 of 169) surveyed by the Physicians Committee only use nonanimal education methods, including Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Missouri at Kansas City, St. Louis University School of Medicine, and Freeman Health System in Joplin.
“Whether an emergency medicine program uses animals or not reveals its ability to keep up with best training practices,” says John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee. “As 149 other U.S. programs are already aware, emergency medicine residents receive better training on human-based devices and technologies. Nonhuman animals are simply not representative of either the human form or its physiology, and Mizzou’s program is not representative of the best training available to residents today.”
Mizzou already has a state-of-the-art simulation center—the Shelden Clinical Simulation Center—that could provide the resources to replace the use of animals in the emergency medicine residency.
Emergency medicine training at Mizzou currently involves cutting into live pigs to practice procedures. Trainees are instructed to cut into the animal’s throat, chest, and abdominal cavity to insert needles and tubes, and to spread the ribs in order to access the heart and repair an injury to the pericardium (sac surrounding the heart). According to the protocol obtained by the Physicians Committee, the procedures continue even if the animal dies while on the operating table. If the animals survive the invasive procedures, they are killed before needle drainage of the pericardium is performed.
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, which is being filed with the USDA’s Western Region Animal Care office, cites violations of the Animal Welfare Act and inadequate oversight of the training protocol by the school’s animal care and use committee.
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.