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Fighting Animal Abuse in New Jersey

doctorIf you read PCRM Online regularly, you know that PCRM has been tremendously successful at reducing the cruel and unnecessary use of animals in medical school education. Now PCRM is stepping up its campaign to reduce the use of animals in another type of medical training—one used to instruct doctors and emergency medical personnel in emergency skills. One of the first institutions of concern in the campaign is the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s (UMDNJ) University Hospital in Newark, N.J.

Many physicians, medical students, and emergency responders go through a crucial training program during their careers called Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS). Regulated by the American College of Surgeons, the course teaches lifesaving procedures used to treat acute trauma injuries, such as how to relieve an obstructed airway and how to remove fluid from the sac surrounding the heart.

Years ago, most of these training courses used animals to teach such procedures. The only approved alternative was human cadavers. However, thanks to the development of new technology, most courses these days use human simulators such as the TraumaMan System. These realistic simulators come with lifelike human skin, fat, and muscle. They even bleed. Unlike animals, the mannequins duplicate human anatomy and allow students to practice all the necessary procedures over and over again.

An ongoing PCRM survey shows that out of 166 U.S. facilities offering ATLS courses, more than 90 percent exclusively use nonanimal models for instruction. Despite the superiority of human simulators, at least 14 institutions continue to practice on live animals and then kill them. This spring, PCRM began a major campaign to reform the ATLS programs at these 14 institutions, including University Hospital.

UMDNJ’s University Hospital in Newark is the only institution in New Jersey that still uses animals to teach an ATLS course. Four other ATLS programs, including two within the UMDNJ system—Cooper University Hospital in Camden and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick—all use TraumaMan.

On July 2, PCRM took action. Our Research Advocacy Department filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture requesting that its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) investigate the unlawful use of live pigs at University Hospital. The complaint charges that the hospital is violating the Animal Welfare Act because nonanimal technologies are available that would alleviate pain and suffering. These technologies are endorsed by the American College of Surgeons.

A major story in the Newark Star-Ledger let the community know about the controversy, as did an opinion piece in the same paper by John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., PCRM’s senior medical and research adviser.

A week later, PCRM's campaign got some help from Hollywood. Actor Lisa Edelstein, who plays Dr. Cuddy on FOX’s acclaimed medical drama House, wrote Dr. William F. Owen Jr., the president of UMDNJ. Edelstein, who was also raised in New Jersey, asked Dr. Owen to replace the pigs with more humane teaching methods.

“I only play a doctor on television,” she wrote. “But my father is a real doctor, a pediatrician. He was always gentle and sincere in his approach and taught me how important compassion is in the practice of medicine. Even as a young girl, it made me think: Shouldn’t this compassion extend to nonhuman animals (including pigs, who are intelligent and social creatures)?”

Please join Lisa Edelstein in PCRM’s campaign to end the use of live pigs at University Hospital in Newark. Watch future issues of PCRM Online for updates on the New Jersey campaign, our APHIS complaint, and our efforts to stop the use of animals in all ATLS courses. If you are a graduate or employee of the UMDNJ system, please contact Ryan Merkley at or 202-686-2210, ext. 336.


PCRM Online, August 2008

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