SPRINGFIELD, MASS.—On June 29, area physician Margaret Peppercorn and Massachusetts residents will be on site at Baystate Medical Center to call for an end to the use of live pigs in Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) courses—and a switch to human-relevant methods. The Physicians Committee, a nonprofit representing more than 12,000 concerned physicians, is organizing the event. The group will also file a federal complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Eastern Region Animal Care office, citing inadequate oversight of the training protocol.
WHAT: A physician-led demonstration urging Baystate Medical Center to stop using live animals to teach ATLS courses
WHO: Margaret B. Peppercorn, M.D., F.A.A.P.
WHEN: Thursday, June 29, 10:45 a.m.
WHERE: 745 Chestnut Street, Springfield, MA 01107 (at the intersection with Cumberland Street)
Nearly all ATLS programs in the United States and Canada exclusively use nonanimal training methods, such as medical simulation. Today, 99 percent of surveyed programs (298 of 301) conduct training solely using human-relevant methods, including Massachusetts General Hospital, Tufts Medical Center, and Baystate-affiliated University of Massachusetts Medical School.
The controversial training at Baystate involves cutting into live pigs to practice surgical skills, but 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 American College of Surgeons, which reviews and accredits ATLS courses, has stated that “wherever feasible, alternatives to the use of live animals should be developed and employed.” Simulab’s TraumaMan System—a realistic human-body simulator with lifelike skin, fat, and muscle—is used by the vast majority of ATLS programs. In addition, the Department of Defense ended animal use for ATLS training in January 2015 in favor of simulation.
“This use of animals for ATLS training puts Baystate in an extreme minority, as one of only three programs that have yet to modernize its medical training and do away with animal use,” says John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., Physicians Committee director of academic affairs. “Modern tools and devices provide a better educational experience. They are specifically modeled after human anatomy, and they have replaceable parts to allow for repeated practice.”
Baystate already has state-of-the-art simulation facilities—the Baystate Simulation Center and the Goldberg Surgical Skills Laboratory—and owns TraumaMan, so the medical center could end animal use immediately.
For a copy of the federal complaint or to speak with a 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.