LEBANON, N.H.—Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, in Lebanon, N.H., is operating in violation of federal law by using live animals to train emergency medicine residents, according to a complaint that will be filed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine—a national nonprofit of 12,000 concerned physicians—on Mar. 2, 2017.
The training of emergency medicine residents at Dartmouth-Hitchcock currently involves cutting into live sheep to practice procedural 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.”
According to an ongoing survey, 91 percent of U.S. emergency medicine residencies (143 of 157)—including other New England programs at Boston University, Maine Medical Center in Portland, and the University of Connecticut—teach residents solely using nonanimal methods, such as human-based medical simulation, partial task trainers, and cadavers.
“Animal use for medical training is rapidly declining as technologies have surpassed animals for their ability to approximate the human body,” says John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee. “These new tools and devices provide a better educational experience for residents not only because they are specifically modeled after human anatomy, but also because they allow for repeated practice, as they can offer replaceable synthetic skin, fat, and muscle.”
Furthermore, Dartmouth-Hitchcock already has a state-of-the-art simulation center—the Patient Safety Training Center—which could provide the technology to replace animal use in the emergency medicine residency.
The Physicians Committee’s complaint will be filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Eastern Region Animal Care office. It cites inadequate oversight of the training protocol by Dartmouth College’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.
For a copy of the federal complaint or to interview Dr. Pippin, 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.