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The Physicians Committee

NEWS RELEASE July 2, 2008

Military Doctors Petition Secretary of Army to Halt Unlawful Use of Live Animals in Medical Student Training

Petition for Enforcement Says Use of Live Ferrets for Pediatric Training and Pigs for Surgery Violates Military Regulations and Federal Law

WASHINGTON—In an effort to end unlawful live animal use at military medical teaching facilities, several physicians and high-ranking military officers will on July 2 submit a Petition for Enforcement to the Secretary of the Army. The petition targets Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio, and all other Department of Defense components that provide education for medical students.

Pediatrician Marion Balsam, M.D., who was an active duty military doctor for 25 years while rising to the rank of U.S. Navy rear admiral, notes in the petition that good nonanimal alternatives exist, and it is not necessary to use live ferrets to learn procedures for human infants or live pigs for surgery practice. Dr. Balsam and the other signatories state that the use of live animals as teaching tools is unlawful under the federal Animal Welfare Act and a Joint Regulation issued by the U.S. Air Force, Army, and Navy to implement Department of Defense Directive 3216.1.

“Doctors caring for our troops should receive training that is state-of-the art and human-centered,” says cardiologist John J. Pippin, M.D., of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “Using live animals for medical student training has almost disappeared from U.S. medical schools. The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences has one of the best-equipped medical simulation centers in the world, and our military doctors deserve this level of training rather than outdated and unnecessary live animal laboratories.” 

Most medical schools in the country, including Yale, Stanford, and Duke, use life-like human patient simulators and other high-tech methods rather than live animals for student training. Schools that have recently halted the use of live pigs, ferrets, and dogs as teaching tools include Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and New York Medical College. The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University has announced it will stop using live pigs for surgery training in July of 2008. 

Twenty years ago, live animals were commonly used in physiology, pharmacology, and surgery courses at medical schools. A standard laboratory exercise involved anesthetizing an animal, followed by injecting pharmaceuticals or practicing surgical techniques. The animals are killed after the lab exercises are over.

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.

Media Contact:
Jeanne McVey,
202-686-2210, ext. 316

John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.
John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.

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