MINNEAPOLIS—On Jun. 5, the Physicians Committee, a nonprofit representing more than 12,000 concerned physicians, will install two billboards near Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), opposing the institution’s use of live rabbits and sheep to practice emergency medical procedures. The ads read “Hennepin County Medical Center: Using Animals to Teach Human Medicine? SwitchToSimulation.org,” and depict a doctor in a white coat giving a thumbs-down gesture.
At HCMC, live rabbits and sheep are used in an emergency skills training lab. Emergency medicine residents, department staff, and other trainees practice procedures on the animals, including making incisions into the throat to insert a breathing tube, inserting needles into the chest to remove fluid surrounding the heart, splitting open the breastbone in order to access the heart, performing various cardiac procedures, cutting the skin and ligament at the lateral corner of the eye to relieve pressure behind the eye, and drilling holes into the skull. Following the training sessions, the animals (up to 200 per year) are killed if they survive the procedures.
However, in the United States, 89 percent of 162 surveyed emergency medicine programs only use nonanimal teaching methods. This includes regional programs at the University of Iowa, Indiana University, University of Wisconsin, and Northwestern University. HCMC already has a state-of-the-art facility that could provide the patient simulation resources to replace this use of animals.
In conjunction with the advertisements, on Jun. 8, the Physicians Committee will submit a request for an animal cruelty investigation to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. Signees will include John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.; Physicians Committee attorney Leslie Rudloff, Esq.; Patrick C. Tullo, Esq., of Welch, Minn.; and Matthew Clayton, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.C.S., of St. Paul, Minn.
“Minnesota state law makes it illegal to ‘unjustifiably injure, maim, mutilate, or kill any animal,’” says Dr. Pippin, Physicians Committee director of academic affairs. “HCMC’s practice is clearly unjustifiable: Not only does HCMC already have the means to replace animals by utilizing its simulation center, but the vast majority of programs in the country have moved beyond the use of live animals to teach emergency medicine.”
The billboards are located on the southern side of S. 9th Street, between S. 4th Ave. and S. 5th Ave., and on the southern side of S. 3rd Street, between Chicago Ave. and Norm McGrew Pl.
For an interview with a signee of the request to Mr. Freeman, 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.