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.
NEWS RELEASE August 4, 2016
University of North Carolina Violating Federal Law by Using Live Animals in Medical Training
Doctors Urge UNC to Halt Use of Animals in Emergency Medicine Training Program; Majority of Other Programs Use Human-Based Simulators
CHAPEL HILL—The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is violating federal law by using live animals in its emergency medicine training program, according to a complaint that will be filed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine on Aug. 4, 2016. The vast majority of emergency medicine residency programs in the United States use human-based methods, such as medical simulation, to train residents.
“The University of North Carolina is breaking the law by failing to justify its use of animals,” says John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee. “It’s clear that alternatives exist that provide better training to emergency medicine residents.” According to Dr. Pippin, documents obtained from the university acknowledge that available human-based training methods could achieve the training goals.
Emergency medicine training at the University of North Carolina currently involves cutting into live pigs to practice procedures. Trainees are instructed to cut into the animal’s throat, chest, and abdominal cavity to insert needles and tubes, and to spread the ribs in order to access the heart. After the training session, the animals are killed.
However, 89 percent of U.S. emergency medicine residency programs (139 of 157) surveyed by the Physicians Committee use superior nonanimal education methods, including Duke University, Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, East Carolina University, and Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
UNC already has a state-of-the-art simulation center—the Clinical Skills and Patient Simulation Center—that could provide the resources to replace the use of animals in the emergency medicine residency.
The Animal Welfare Act’s implementing regulations “require that a principal investigator—including course instructors—consider alternatives to procedures that may cause more than momentary or slight pain or distress to any animal used for research purposes.” The Physicians Committee’s complaint, which is being filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Eastern Region Animal Care office, cites violations of the Animal Welfare Act and inadequate oversight of the training protocol by the school’s animal care and use committee.
For a copy of the federal complaint or to interview Dr. Pippin or a local physician, please contact Reina Pohl at 202-527-7326 or RPohl@PCRM.org.