NEW ORLEANS—Tulane University School of Medicine should end the unnecessary use of live pigs in a trauma training course, says a national physicians group. Doctors with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), including Covington-based pediatrician Leslie Brown, M.D., and cardiologist John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., joined concerned Louisiana residents on June 2 for a physician-led demonstration outside the medical center.
Protestors carried a banner asking Tulane to "End Deadly Pig Lab." Doctors also delivered a petition signed by thousands of concerned citizens, including many physicians, to Benjamin Sachs, M.B., dean of Tulane University School of Medicine, urging a move to nonanimal methods. Using live animals for trauma training is a violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act because nonanimal methods are widely available and used at most other institutions, PCRM says.
Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) training at Tulane Medical School involves cutting into live, anesthetized pigs and practicing procedures such as inserting a tube and needle into the animals’ chest cavities and cutting into their throats. After the training session, the animals are killed. The animals are also subjected to the trauma of confinement, shipping, and preparation for surgery.
Effective nonanimal alternatives have been approved for ATLS training by the American College of Surgeons, the body overseeing these courses. Tulane Medical School currently operates a state-of-the-art simulation center. Making full use of the center would enable the school to stop using animals without incurring additional cost.
More than 95 percent of U.S. facilities that provide ATLS training, including University of South Alabama, University of Mississippi School of Medicine, and Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, use lifelike human patient simulators and other high-tech nonanimal methods.
"Tulane Medical School needs to catch up to the current standard of trauma training," says Dr. Pippin. "Cutting into living animals is a substandard way to teach emergency procedures that will be used on humans. The course instructor already uses simulators to teach the same procedures also taught with live pigs. Tulane should use state-of-the-art, nonanimal teaching methods, including human patient simulators, for all such trauma courses."
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.