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Cruel Summer: Animals Die for Medical Training

PCRM put the heat on medical schools this summer to end inhumane animal use. Our physicians and attorneys filed legal complaints against the University of Washington and the University of Tennessee calling for superior human-centered technology.

PCRM’s complaint against the University of Washington (UW) calls on King County authorities to halt the school’s use of live ferrets because it violates Washington’s animal cruelty law. The legal complaint comes after PCRM petitioned incoming UW president Michael Young to replace ferret use with simulators.

“UW residents deserve the best possible educational experience to prepare them to care for newborns. A ferret’s anatomy is different from a human baby’s, and residents can get a better education using state-of-the-art, human-centered technology,” says John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., PCRM director of academic affairs.

Pediatrics training at UW involves repeatedly forcing a plastic tube into the mouth and windpipe (trachea) of a live ferret. Animals used in this training procedure often suffer tracheal bruising, bleeding, scarring, severe pain, and sometimes death.

But UW’s Institute for Simulation and Interprofessional Studies owns the SimNewB newborn infant simulator, which was developed in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics.

If the institute’s simulation technology was fully utilized, the university could immediately replace its use of animals, joining the more than 90 percent of U.S. pediatrics programs surveyed by PCRM that no longer use animals in such classes.

Live animals are also being unlawfully mutilated and killed at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine Chattanooga. PCRM’s complaint calls on the district attorney general to halt the school’s live animal lab because it violates Tennessee’s animal cruelty law, which does not exempt medical training.

In the university’s surgery clerkship students perform surgical procedures on live, anesthetized pigs. Students are guided to surgically cut open pigs and manipulate or remove body parts. After the training session, the animals are killed.

The Chattanooga surgery clerkship is the only remaining medical student course in the University of Tennessee system using animals and one of the last institutions in the country using animals in such classes. Of 177 accredited medical schools in the United States and Canada, only three use live animals in surgery clerkships.

To ask these universities to replace cruel animal use with human patient simulators, visit

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PCRM Online, August 2011

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