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Billboards Call for Action Against Animal Labs in Portland and Milwaukee

PCRM took its message about live animal labs to the streets in Portland, Ore., and Milwaukee this winter. A billboard went up the first week of January in both cities, each of which is home to a medical school that plans to hold a live animal lab this semester.

Both billboards feature a pig and the words “First, do no harm.” The phrase refers to the widely quoted medical principle taught to new physicians. Each billboard directs passersby to a Web site where they can learn about either the Oregon Health & Science University Medical School's (OHSU) or the Medical College of Wisconsin’s (MCW) upcoming live animal labs. The visibility of the billboards brought local media attention—in newspapers and through TV and radio coverage—to the problems with the labs at both universities.

At OHSU, first-year students will experiment on approximately 16 live pigs in a cardiac physiology course on Feb. 15, 19, 21, and 22. After the class, the animals will be killed. First-year students in the cardiovascular-physiology lab at MCW will experiment on approximately 35 pigs beginning February 18.

 “The best medical schools in the country, including Duke, Stanford, Columbia, and Mayo, have all discontinued the use of live animals in their curricula,” says cardiologist John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., a PCRM senior medical and research adviser.  “With the wealth of excellent alternatives, there is simply no excuse for killing animals in the name of medical education. OHSU and MCW students are being asked, in effect, to kill their first patients—which is unnecessary for teaching medicine and inconsistent with teaching compassion.”  

The number of schools that still use live animal labs is rapidly diminishing. OHSU and MCW are two of only 10 medical schools left in the United States that still use live animals to teach human anatomy, physiology, surgery, and other courses. The other 144 U.S. medical schools use a variety of effective and widely available alternatives, including lifelike simulation models, computer-based learning methods, standardized patient exams, case reviews, and faculty-mentored teaching opportunities.

Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland recently announced that it ended the use of dogs, cats, and ferrets in student courses, but the school continues to use live pigs in an elective surgery course. Between January and June 2008, six live pig labs are scheduled to take place at Case Western as part of a laparoscopic surgery elective. The school has pledged to follow the lead of more than 90 percent of medical schools and end all live animal labs after those classes.

What You Can Do


PCRM Online, February 2008

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