MGH Uses Sheep, Baystate Uses Pigs for Lethal Procedures; Most Schools Use Nonanimal Methods
WASHINGTON—Live animals are unlawfully used and killed in trauma training courses at Massachusetts General Hospital and Baystate Medical Center, say Massachusetts physicians in legal complaints filed March 24. Local physicians joined the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) in filing criminal complaints with two district attorneys' offices to halt both medical centers’ animal labs because they violate Massachusetts’ animal cruelty law, which does not exempt medical training.
“The animal use at Mass General and Baystate is inhumane and violates Massachusetts’ anticruelty statute,” says John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., PCRM senior medical and research adviser. “Cutting into living animals is a substandard way to teach emergency procedures that will be performed on humans. These facilities should use state-of-the-art, human-centered methods for all trauma courses."
Ninety-five percent of U.S. facilities providing Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) training, including Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Berkshire Medical Center, and Boston University School of Medicine, use lifelike human patient models and other high-tech nonanimal methods. The University of Massachusetts Medical School replaced pigs with simulators in December 2010.
ATLS training at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) involves cutting into live, anesthetized sheep and practicing procedures such as inserting a tube and needle into the animals’ chest cavities and cutting into their throats. Trauma training at Baystate Medical Center is similar, but involves cutting into live, anesthetized pigs to practice emergency medical procedures. After the training session at both institutions, the animals are killed. Although the animals are anesthetized during the procedures, they are subjected to the trauma of confinement, shipping, preparation, and manipulation.
Both MGH and Baystate have access to human patient simulators that have been approved by the American College of Surgeons (ACS). Baystate operates an ACS-accredited medical simulation center—one of only 39 simulation centers in the world to have received this accreditation. If these simulation devices were fully utilized, the institutions could immediately replace the use of animals.
PCRM’s complaint against MGH, which is being filed with the Suffolk County district attorney, states, “We believe that Massachusetts General Hospital should be held criminally liable for cruelty to animals and request that you investigate the live animal component of its ATLS curriculum as soon as possible.” Massachusetts’ animal cruelty statute criminalizes conduct that “mutilates or kills an animal, or causes or procures an animal to be . . .mutilated or killed.”
For a copy of the criminal complaint or an interview with Dr. Pippin or a Massachusetts physician who signed the complaint, please contact Tara Failey at 202-527-7319 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.