PITTSBURGH—Live pigs are unlawfully used and killed in trauma training classes at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) says in a federal complaint filed Oct. 7. More than 95 percent of U.S. facilities providing Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) training, including the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and Allegheny General Hospital, use lifelike human patient models and other high-tech nonanimal methods.
ATLS training at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center involves cutting into live, anesthetized pigs and practicing emergency medical procedures. After the training session, the animals are killed. Although the animals are anesthetized during the procedures, they are subjected to the trauma of confinement, shipping, preparation, and experimentation.
Effective nonanimal alternatives have been approved by the American College of Surgeons, the body that oversees these courses. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center already invests in world-class medical simulation technologies, especially at its Peter M. Winter Institute for Simulation Education and Research.
“Cutting into living animals is a substandard way to teach emergency procedures that will be performed on humans,” says John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., PCRM senior medical and research adviser. “The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center should use state-of-the-art, nonanimal teaching methods, including human patient simulators, for all its trauma courses.”
The complaint, which is being filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Eastern Regional Office, states, “We believe that this animal use is a violation of the Animal Welfare Act because there are nonanimal training methods available that are educationally equivalent or superior.” 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.”
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.