COLUMBIA, S.C.—The University of South Carolina (USC) School of Medicine in Columbia has ended the use of live animals in its emergency medicine program, as announced in an e-mail to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine on Sept. 20. The Physicians Committee—a national nonprofit of 12,000 concerned physicians—filed a federal complaint about the animal use on Aug. 25, 2016.
“More and more emergency medicine programs are switching to human-relevant training methods, and I congratulate the University of South Carolina for their decision,” says John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee. “USC’s update to their curriculum demonstrates that they are willing to approach curriculum content objectively and make decisions based on the best scientific, educational, and ethical evidence.”
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 was filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Eastern Region Animal Care office. It cites inadequate oversight of the training protocol by the school’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. Following the announcement, the Physicians Committee will withdraw its federal complaint.
Emergency medicine training at USC School of Medicine in Columbia involved cutting into live pigs to practice procedures. Trainees were instructed to cut into an animal’s throat, chest cavity, and veins to insert tubes; and to split open the breastbone in order to access the heart and perform various cardiac procedures. The animals were killed before final airway procedures were taught, toward the end of the training session. However, students at USC will now be taught using only human-relevant methods, like medical simulators and cadavers.
Eighty-nine percent of U.S. emergency medicine residency programs (142 of 160) surveyed by the Physicians Committee use only nonanimal, human-based education methods, including USC’s Greenville program, Duke University, the Medical University of South Carolina, and Emory University.
To interview Dr. Pippin, please contact Reina Pohl at 202-527-7326 or RPohl@PCRM.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 and medical training.