Deadly Animal Use at University of Tennessee College of Medicine Violates State Law, Doctors Say

The Physicians Committee
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NEWS RELEASE July 7, 2011
Deadly Animal Use at University of Tennessee College of Medicine Violates State Law, Doctors Say
John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.

UTCOMC Uses Pigs for Lethal Procedures; Nearly All U.S. Medical Schools Use Nonanimal Methods

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.—Live animals are unlawfully mutilated and killed in the college of medicine curriculum at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, says the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) in a state legal complaint filed July 7. PCRM’s complaint calls on the district attorney general to halt the school’s live animal lab because it violates Tennessee’s animal cruelty law, which does not exempt medical training.

The University of Tennessee College of Medicine Chattanooga (UTCOMC) is one of the last institutions in the country using animals in such classes. Of 177 accredited medical schools in the United States and Canada, only three use live animals in surgery clerkships. Human patient simulators and other high-tech nonanimal methods are used by 98 percent of medical schools, including Vanderbilt University, Emory University, and Duke University.

“The University of Tennessee’s Chattanooga campus is the only medical school in the state using live animals for surgical training. This inhumane practice violates Tennessee’s anticruelty statute,” says John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., PCRM senior medical and research adviser. “A pig’s anatomy is different from a person’s, and medical students at the University of Tennessee can get a better education using state-of-the-art, human-based technology.”

Medical training in UTCOMC’s surgery clerkship requires students to perform surgical procedures on live, anesthetized pigs. Students are guided to surgically cut open pigs and manipulate or remove body parts. After the training session, the animals are killed. The Chattanooga surgery clerkship is the only remaining medical student course in the University of Tennessee system using animals – neither the Memphis nor Knoxville campus uses live animals for training.

PCRM’s complaint against UTCOMC, which is being filed with the Hamilton County district attorney, states, “We believe that UTCOMC should be held criminally liable for cruelty to animals and request that you investigate and halt the live animal component of the school’s medical student curriculum as soon as possible.” Tennessee’s animal cruelty statute criminalizes conduct that needlessly “torture[s] [and] maim[s]” animals.

For a copy of the criminal complaint against UTCOMC or an interview with Dr. Pippin, please contact Tara Failey at 202-527-7319 or tfailey@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.

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