It is a tremendous relief to hear that Johns Hopkins University will finally begin using up-to-date, human-relevant methods to teach human medicine. This change will align Johns Hopkins’ medical education program with 99 percent of the country’s programs.
Previously, Johns Hopkins was the only school in the state—and one of just two in the United States and Canada—that used animals for medical education. Elite schools Harvard and the Mayo Clinic are among the 197 schools that had already moved on to—or always used—high-quality, human-oriented techniques. Not one of the 44 medical schools that have opened in the United States since 1979 has used animals to train its students. With alternatives widely available, it is clear that animal use is not needed and not defensible.
The University of Tennessee College of Medicine at Chattanooga is now the only medical education program in the country that continues to use animals in its curriculum.
At Johns Hopkins, medical students were instructed to make incisions in a pig’s abdomen and to insert tubes with cameras (endoscopes), into the pig’s body. This caused severe injuries, and all of the pigs were killed after the procedure.
The use of animal labs is unmistakably contrary to the intention to provide an excellent medical education. Modern medical simulators provide a superior way to learn surgical skills that are specific to human anatomy and physiology.
To prepare future physicians for the work they will perform throughout their careers, medical training must be human-focused, not animal-focused, because there are many substantial differences across species.
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.