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Victory! OU Medical Center Ends Animal Use

The University of Oklahoma Medical Center just confirmed to PCRM that it has stopped killing goats in its trauma training course and now employs nonanimal training methods. But sheep at Massachusetts General Hospital still need your help. Despite thousands of messages from people like you, the hospital killed sheep in its trauma training course this May. Help us end animal use in all upcoming courses at the hospital.

sheepLast year, PCRM filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture citing the University of Oklahoma (OU) Medical Center for violating the Animal Welfare Act by using goats in its Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) course. After the complaint was filed, the medical center obtained the American College of Surgeons (ACS)-approved TraumaMan System simulator and is now using it—instead of animals.

OU Medical Center’s wise decision puts additional pressure on Massachusetts General, which recently used and killed sheep in its ATLS course.

“The current use of live sheep is a violation of the Animal Welfare Act because educationally equivalent nonanimal training methods exist,” wrote PCRM cardiologist John Pippin, M.D., in a formal request asking Massachusetts General’s Subcommittee on Research Animal Care to deny the use of animals in the hospital’s ATLS course.

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.”

Mass General already uses TraumaMan to teach ATLS procedures to medical students—but it needs to start using the animal-free method in all ATLS courses. When physicians take ATLS courses at Mass General, they insert tubes into the chests of live sheep and the animals’ tracheas are cut open. These procedures and others subject the sheep to the trauma of confinement, shipping, and preparation.

“Massachusetts General Hospital needs to catch up to the current standard of trauma training,” says Dr. Pippin. “Cutting into living animals is a substandard way to teach emergency procedures that will be used on humans. The course instructor already uses simulators to teach the same procedures also taught with live sheep. Massachusetts General should use state-of-the-art, nonanimal teaching methods, including human patient simulators, for all such trauma courses.”

The vast majority of U.S. ATLS courses—including Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Mass. and Beth Israel Hospital in Boston—use the TraumaMan System for ATLS surgical skills training.

ATLS courses teach procedures designed to respond to acute trauma injuries. These procedures include cricothyroidotomy (an incision in the neck to relieve an obstructed airway), pericardiocentesis (removing fluid from the sac that surrounds the heart), and chest tube insertion (draining blood, fluid, or air to allow the lung to fully expand). But teaching these procedures using animals is cruel and ineffective.

According to a study published in the November 2002 edition of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, study participants misplaced 30.2 percent of cricothyroidotomies (emergency surgical airway) when performing the procedure on live animals compared with only 3.6 percent when using human cadavers. The ACS also previously approved the use of cadavers.

PCRM’s ongoing survey of ATLS programs in the United States and Canada has found that 188 of the 201 programs (more than 90 percent) that have responded exclusively use nonanimal models for instruction. The vast majority of those 189 programs exclusively use the TraumaMan System.

Contact Massachusetts General Hospital’s ATLS course instructor, Susan Briggs, M.D., today and politely ask her to end animal use in the institution’s ATLS program before the October course.

John Pippin, M.D
John Pippin, M.D

PCRM Online, June 2009

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