Training Video Exposes Unlawful Use of Live Animals for Invasive Procedures; Most Schools Use Nonanimal Methods
WASHINGTON—A live pig is tethered to an operating table as a scalpel slices through the animal’s skin and muscle. Later, the pig’s chest is cracked open to allow an instructor to shock and manually manipulate the heart before the animal is killed. A training video obtained through the Freedom of Information Act reveals the unlawful use of live pigs to teach first-year medical students at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS). Meanwhile, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (JHU) also unlawfully uses live pigs in its medical student curriculum.
On Feb. 24, Maryland physicians, including two Johns Hopkins graduates, joined the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) in filing criminal complaints with two state’s attorney’s offices to halt both medical schools’ animal labs, which violate the Maryland animal cruelty law.
“The animal use at Johns Hopkins and Uniformed Services University is inhumane and violates Maryland’s anticruelty statute,” says John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., PCRM senior medical and research adviser. “Training on live animals also offers an inferior educational experience. A pig’s anatomy is different from a person’s, and medical students can get a better education using state-of-the-art, human-centered technology.”
Nonanimal training methods are used by more than 95 percent of U.S. and Canadian medical schools, including the Georgetown University School of Medicine, the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
USUHS’ training for first-year medical students involves placing catheters in the arteries and veins of the pigs, blocking the animals’ arteries, and injecting them with drugs. Fifty-three pigs are used and killed for this training each year. The first-year course is one of four medical student training labs at USUHS. In the Johns Hopkins third-year surgery rotation, students use live pigs to perform simple surgical procedures. Students make incisions and insert endoscopes (long tubes with cameras) into the pig. The procedures cause severe injuries, and the animals are killed at the end of each session.
Both USUHS and JHU have access to numerous simulators and partial task trainers via their state-of-the-art simulation centers. If these simulation centers were fully utilized, the universities could immediately replace the use of animals.
PCRM’s complaint against Johns Hopkins, which is being filed with the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, states, “We believe that JHU should be held criminally liable for cruelty to animals and request that you investigate and halt the live animal component of the school’s medical student curriculum as soon as possible.” Maryland’s animal cruelty statute states, “that each animal in the State be protected from intentional cruelty, including animals…used in privately, locally, State, or federally funded scientific or medical activities.”
For a copy of the criminal complaint or an interview with Dr. Pippin or a Maryland 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.