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NEWS RELEASE January 27, 2003

Debate Heats Up over Dogs Killed in Medical Training

National Controversy Rages in San Diego, Denver, and Urbana

WASHINGTON—The debate over use of dogs and other live animals in medical training is heating up nationally as medical students are making their choices for the coming semester, and supporters of nonlethal alternatives are stepping up their outreach. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is supporting efforts at medical schools in San Diego, Denver, and Urbana-Champaign to dump “dog labs” and institute humane, high-tech, and cost-effective alternatives. Here is what is happening in each location:

  • In San Diego, California, a news conference will be held on 19 February 2003, the day of the first pharmacology lab using a live dog. Five doctors, including University of California at San Diego professor Dr. Larry Hansen, will speak out in support of computer simulations and other high-tech alternatives. Dr. Hansen recently published a study in Academic Medicine showing that a majority of medical schools—68 percent—do not use live animals in their pharmacology, physiology, or surgery courses. PCRM is airing a radio ad featuring Bill Maher in San Diego on KHTS encouraging students to opt out.
  • In Central Illinois, Adrian Cordovi, a medical student, is spearheading a campaign to provide alternatives to the live pig lab. Local surgeons have volunteered to organize a clinical practicum in which students could go directly into the operating room to observe human surgeries (as they do at Harvard). However, school officials have so far refused to institute this reasonable alternative. PCRM president Dr. Neal Barnard has submitted a letter urging support for this and other alternatives proposed by medical students.
  • Activists in Denver, Colorado, will conduct a vigil on 7 March 2003 alerting the public that on the following day, the first live dog will be used in the cardiovascular lab. After years of protests, a successful lawsuit, and legislative campaigns, the University of Colorado is beginning to modernize. In a recent victory, the medical school has agreed to eliminate the respiratory lab using live dogs; however, the cardiovascular lab still remains. PCRM is airing a radio ad featuring Bill Maher in Denver on KTCL encouraging students to opt out of the dog lab.

Beyond U.S. borders, the University of British Columbia medical school has just announced that it has eliminated the live pig lab from its curriculum. This is the latest victory in PCRM’s long-running campaign to promote humane alternatives to live animal labs. “The best medical schools are doing away with crude and obsolete live animal labs and replacing them with more exciting, clinically relevant, and humane teaching methods,” says Dr. Neal D. Barnard, president of PCRM and adjunct associate professor of medicine at George Washington University.

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.

Media Contact:
Jeanne S. McVey

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