University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Stops Lethal Use of Pigs
Decision Reflects National Move Away from Live Animal Use for Trauma Training
WASHINGTON—University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) has officially ended its lethal use of live pigs for trauma training. The medical center had been using live pigs in an Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) course that involved cutting open anesthetized pigs to practice emergency medical procedures. But UPMC has moved to modern teaching methods that better equip medical professionals to respond to trauma injuries.
A Pennsylvania physician affiliated with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) recently received confirmation of UPMC’s move to replace animals from the course director. UPMC’s animal use became the subject of controversy after PCRM filed legal complaints with the federal government arguing that the institution’s use of live animals in such courses violates the Animal Welfare Act.
"I recently spoke with UPMC’s trauma training program instructor, and he personally assured me that the medical center no longer uses animals in its trauma training program,” says Ronald Banner, M.D., a PCRM member and Pennsylvania physician. “I congratulate everyone involved in reaching this wise decision, which will provide the most up-to-date, sophisticated training available and adhere to the ethical and humane practices that doctors pledge to uphold."
UPMC’s move toward nonanimal methods comes hard on the heels of similar announcements from medical institutions across the country. Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass., also recently stopped using live animals in their ATLS courses.
More than 95 percent of U.S. and Canadian facilities offering ATLS courses now use only nonanimal education methods such as human-modeled simulators. This shift has been facilitated by innovations in medical simulation technology, increased availability of alternatives, a rising awareness of ethical concerns, and a growing acknowledgement that medical training must be human-focused.
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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.