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Massachusetts General Hospital Urged to Stop Killing Sheep

It’s one of the last facilities in the country still using animals in Advanced Trauma Life Support courses. But in an October demonstration, more than 50 Boston-area residents, PCRM physicians, and even a few Massachusetts General Hospital employees let the hospital know that it can’t continue to kill sheep. During the event, PCRM also delivered a petition signed by more than 9,000 people who want the hospital to use superior nonanimal training methods.

demonstrators at Mass GeneralOutside of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), demonstrators carried a banner reading, “MGH: Training Doctors or Teaching Cruelty?” Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) training at MGH involves cutting into live, anesthetized sheep and practicing procedures such as inserting a tube and needle into the animals’ chest cavities and cutting into their throats. After the training session, the animals are killed. The animals are also subjected to the trauma of confinement, shipping, and preparation for surgery.

At the demonstration, attended by the local ABC affiliate and The Boston Globe, doctors also delivered a letter signed by Boston-area physicians to MGH president Peter Slavin, M.D., urging a move to nonanimal methods.

“Massachusetts General Hospital needs to catch up to the current standard of trauma training," says cardiologist John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C. “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. MGH should use state-of-the-art, nonanimal teaching methods, including human patient simulators, for all such trauma courses.”

Effective nonanimal alternatives, such as the TraumaMan System, have been approved for ATLS training by the American College of Surgeons, the body overseeing these courses. MGH already owns approved nonanimal alternatives, including multiple TraumaMan units. Teaching a typical ATLS class requires only two of these simulators.

Ninety-five percent of U.S. facilities that provide ATLS training, including the Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Boston University School of Medicine programs in Boston, use lifelike human patient simulators. But a handful of programs continue to use and kill animals.

Ninety miles west of MGH, Baystate Medical Center in Springfield recently used live pigs a trauma training course. PCRM filed a federal animal welfare complaint against Baystate and launched a public campaign to end this cruel practice. You can help by asking Baystate’s CEO and ATLS course director to replace the use of animals in all ATLS courses with validated nonanimal training methods.

To learn more about how you can help end the use of animals in other trauma training programs, please visit Then join the Humane Trauma Training cause on Facebook.

John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.
John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.

PCRM Online, November 2009

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