Doctors Notify Medical Schools That Use of Live Animals for Student Training Exercises Is Unlawful
Only a Handful of U.S. Medical Schools Use Live Animals as Teaching Tools; New York Is Worst Offender, All Nine in Illinois Use Humane Alternatives
WASHINGTON—Twelve medical schools across the country received notice today from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) that their use of live animals in student training exercises is unlawful under the federal Animal Welfare Act because alternatives are readily available.
Twenty years ago, live dogs were commonly used in physiology, pharmacology, and surgery classes in medical schools. But today, as PCRM’s letter to the 12 schools notes, the large majority of U.S. medical schools, including Harvard, Stanford, and Yale, no longer use live dogs, pigs, or other animals as teaching tools. The list of medical schools that do not use animals for teaching continues to grow, with the recent additions of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Medicine and East Tennessee State University James H. Quillen College of Medicine.
“Dogs are so trusting, and it is a betrayal of that trust to use them in teaching exercises that end in their death,” says PCRM medical advisor John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C. “Humane alternatives such as life-like patient simulators are more effective teaching tools, which is why most of the nation’s medical schools have done away with crude, obsolete dog labs and replaced them with more clinically relevant teaching methods. It is now time for the handful of remaining schools to phase out their live animal laboratories.”
In a letter sent to each medical school’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), Dr. Pippin notes that the federal Animal Welfare Act mandates the use of alternatives in place of live animals when alternatives are adequate for the stated purpose. If the IACUCs, which oversee animal use at the medical schools, do not respond within a month, PCRM will file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which enforces the Animal Welfare Act.
Four of the medical schools that still use dogs and other animals as teaching tools are located in New York state, while all nine Illinois medical schools use humane alternatives. The schools that received PCRM’s letter are New York Medical College, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Stony Brook School of Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine, St. Louis University School of Medicine, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Louisiana State University at New Orleans School of Medicine, University of Tennessee College of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University, School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences School of Medicine, and Georgetown University School of Medicine.
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.