Doctors Protest University of Washington's Cruel Use of Ferrets in Lethal Procedures

The Physicians Committee
NEWS RELEASE October 6, 2011
Doctors Protest University of Washington's Cruel Use of Ferrets in Lethal Procedures
UW: Using Ferretts to Teach Human Medicine?

Physician-Led Demonstration and Petition Call on UW Medical Center to “End Cruel Live Animal Labs,” Oct. 6

SEATTLE—The University of Washington should end the unnecessary use of live ferrets in its pediatrics residency program, says a national physicians group holding a “Switch to Simulation” protest at the university. Doctors with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), including Seattle-based Robert Stagman, M.D., and John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., will join concerned Washington residents on Oct. 6 for a physician-led demonstration outside the university’s medical center. Using live animals for pediatrics residency training is a violation of the state animal cruelty law, which forbids “intentionally inflict[ing] substantial pain” and “caus[ing] physical injury,” PCRM says.

Protestors will carry banners reading, "End Cruel Live Animal Labs,” “UW: Using Ferrets to Teach Human Medicine?" and “To Improve Education, Switch to Simulation.” Doctors will also deliver a petition signed by more than 100 pediatricians urging a move to nonanimal methods.

Pediatrics training at the UW involves using live ferrets for endotracheal intubation. This includes repeatedly forcing a plastic tube into the mouth and windpipe (trachea) of a live ferret. Animals used in this training procedure often suffer tracheal bruising, bleeding, scarring, severe pain, and sometimes death.

Effective nonanimal education methods are used by more than 94 percent of U.S. pediatrics programs surveyed by PCRM, including Oregon Health & Science University, Yale-New Haven Medical Center, and Stanford University. Since January 2011, 10 U.S. pediatrics residency programs have confirmed an end to their animal use; these programs include the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, the University of Arizona, and the University of California at San Diego.

“The University of Washington’s use of ferrets is inhumane and violates Washington’s anticruelty statute,” says John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., PCRM’s director of academic affairs. “UW residents deserve the best possible educational experience to prepare them to care for newborns. A ferret’s anatomy is different from a human baby’s, and residents can get a better education using state-of-the-art, human-centered technology.”

UW could replace the use of animals with high-fidelity medical simulators specifically designed to mimic the anatomy of a very low birth weight premature newborn, including a tongue, vocal cords, and trachea. UW’s state-of-the-art Institute for Simulation and Interprofessional Studies (ISIS) provides an optimal location for this training.The facility already owns the SimNewB newborn infant simulator, which was developed in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics. If the institute were fully utilized, the university could immediately replace its use of animals.

WHO: PCRM director of academic affairs Dr. John Pippin, Seattle-based Dr. Robert Stagman, concerned medical doctors, and members of the public
WHAT: A demonstration urging UW president Michael Young to end the unnecessary use of live ferrets in the medical center’s pediatrics residency program
WHEN: Thursday, Oct. 6, at 11 a.m.
WHERE: University of Washington Medical Center, 1959 N.E. Pacific St., Seattle

For an interview with Dr. Stagman or Dr. Pippin, please contact Dania DePas at 202-527-7382 or

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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