QUEBEC CITY—The Physicians Committee, a nonprofit of 12,000 concerned physicians, is filing a petition with provincial ministers, against Laval University, regarding its use of live piglets for pediatrics training. The group is calling on Minister of Higher Education Hélène David and Minister of Health and Social Services Gaétan Barrette to intervene and ensure that public funds are no longer wasted on the animal-based training program. To call public attention to the issue, the Physicians Committee is also erecting a billboard near the campus. The next pediatrics course at Laval University is scheduled to take place May 3-5.
The billboard is visible to traffic going South on Aut. 740 between Route. 138 and Aut. 440. It depicts a piglet and asks for a "switch to simulation." "L'Universite Laval dit que les porcelets sont « non-représentatifs du modèle humain. » Alors pourquoi les tuer pour former des résidents en pédiatrie ? PassezÁLaSimulation.org," (English: "Laval University states that piglets are 'non-representative of the human model' so why are they still killing them to train pediatrics residents? SwitchToSimulation.org") the ad reads. The ad will be posted for one month beginning on April 24.
The petition to be filed with Ministers David and Barrette alleges that Laval University's current training practices violate the 2000 "Québec Policy on University Funding" because the unnecessary use of animals for pediatrics training is an inefficient and mismanaged expenditure of public money. In addition, recently obtained public records show that Laval University plans to conduct a comparative study involving live animals. However, the university already owns a state-of-the-art facility that was funded in large part by a $13 million grant from the government of Québec. David and Barrette, represent Outremont and La Pinière, respectively, in the National Assembly of Québec.
Of 221 surveyed pediatrics programs in the United States and Canada, Laval University is the only program known to use live animals for training. However, next week during the three-day course, trainees will insert tubes into piglets' chest cavities, cut open their veins, and insert a needle into the sac surrounding the animals' hearts. The piglets are then killed, and trainees cut into the animals' throats to insert breathing tubes.
"There's no reason to use animals to train future pediatricians," says John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., director of academic affairs with the Physicians Committee. "There are 220 pediatrics programs not using animals that have already come to this conclusion. It's unlikely that they are all wrong and Laval is correct."
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.