A Purple Heart recipient who risked his life to save fallen Marines is speaking out against the military’s use of animals in trauma training.
Charles J. Rosciam, M.H.A., a retired captain with the U.S. Navy’s Medical Service Corps, served 13 months in combat and treated well over a hundred casualties. He and 16 other former military physicians, medics, and nurses are urging Department of Defense (DOD) officials to stop using and killing animals in medical training.
The military’s trauma training program subjects more than 8,500 animals a year to severe injuries, including stab wounds, gunshot wounds, burns, and amputations. In chemical casualty care training courses at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, vervet monkeys are given a toxic dose of the drug physostigmine, which can cause seizures, breathing difficulty, and death.
On June 3, Capt. Rosciam and other former military medical personnel joined PCRM in filing a Petition for Enforcement with the Army surgeon general to end the use of animals in these courses. PCRM also hosted briefings in the House of Representatives and Senate in June to explain how the National Defense Authorization Act could make military medical training more humane and effective.
At the congressional briefings, Hope Ferdowsian, M.D., M.P.H., PCRM’s director of research policy, presented an overview of the DOD’s reliance on live animals, including monkeys, pigs, and goats, to train soldiers and corpsmen. Former military medical personnel discussed their personal experiences with animal use in combat trauma training and discussed opportunities for reform.
Using animals for trauma training violates the DOD’s own animal welfare regulation, which requires that nonanimal training methods be used whenever scientifically feasible. Every one of the military’s classes using animals could be replaced with an educationally equivalent or superior nonanimal method. Nonanimal methods range from human-patient simulators to commonsense approaches, like the use of civilian trauma centers to gain experience.