Compassion Wins in Texas; Wisconsin Lags Behind
Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and its affiliated Scott and White Hospital have joined the growing list of schools that no longer use live animal labs in education. Previously, pigs had been used in a third-year surgery clerkship held at Scott and White. This development reduces the number of medical schools in the United States that still use live animals to 14.
Meanwhile, PCRM stepped up its efforts to encourage the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) to choose an alternative to killing 60 dogs in a first-year physiology course at the end of February. Although the school decided to continue with the lab this semester, PCRM has brought a tremendous amount of attention to this issue in the Milwaukee area and in the medical community, and will continue to do so until the animal lab is canceled.
A PCRM billboard along the busy Zoo Freeway in Milwaukee called on motorists to encourage the school to adopt non-animal methods. The billboard, along with a new website—www.SaveMCWanimals.org—garnered the attention of both the media and concerned citizens. Many people who had seen the billboard braved the cold to join PCRM and the Wisconsin Humane Society for a demonstration in January at MCW. PCRM senior medical and research adviser Aysha Akhtar, M.D., M.P.H., delivered to a representative of MCW more than 550 petitions signed by physicians around the country opposing the use of live animals in medical education.
Dr. Akhtar also announced that a coalition of humane societies and rescue organizations in Wisconsin and Minnesota pledged to take in all 60 dogs if the lab were canceled.
The class involves anesthetizing the dogs, opening their chest cavities, injecting pharmaceuticals, and then killing the animals. More than 85 percent of U.S. medical schools, including Dartmouth, Stanford, and Yale, have abandoned the use of animals in medical education. Human patient simulators and other human-centered alternatives are the preferred instructional tools. The MCW campus already has four human patient simulators.
PCRM recently filed a complaint with the federal government asking for an investigation of the use of live dogs at MCW. Last year an inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that alternatives to using animals for medical education exist and that a “written narrative must justify why the alternatives were not used.” PCRM contends that MCW has not and cannot provide meaningful justification for using dogs instead of one of the many educationally superior non-animal alternatives. The school’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee approved the dog lab for only a one-year term, and will be reassessing its validity in the spring.