Replacement Alternatives in Education: Animal-Free Teaching

The Physicians Committee

Replacement Alternatives in Education: Animal-Free Teaching

Corresponding author: Dalal, Rooshin (University of Virginia School of Medicine, USA)

Authors: Rooshin Dalal (1), Megha Even (2), Chad Sandusky (2), Neal Barnard (2)

Institutions: (1) University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, USA; (2) Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Research, Washington D.C., USA

In 1985, all 126 medical schools in the US offered a live animal laboratory as a requirement for teaching physiology, pharmacology, and/or surgery. Currently, 80% of medical schools have eliminated these labs from their curricula. The remaining 20%, although not requiring participation, still offer live animal labs to civilian medical students.

Until recently, the University of Virginia School of Medicine (UVa) in Charlottesville continued to teach emergency techniques to medical students using a canine laboratory. Surgical procedures were performed on approximately 100 beagles (euthanized at the end of the lab). Medical students, physicians, veterinary technicians, and members of the community initiated a group effort, working with faculty and administration, to eliminate the use of live animals and implement superior training methods. In November 2004, a new life-saving techniques course was implemented using a human patient simulator and other stand-alone stations, allowing students to practice techniques such as chest tube insertion, cricothyroidotomy, and venous cut-down for intravenous fluids.

Elimination of the canine lab marked a turning point for medical education at UVa, and follows a general trend since 1994 of a declining use of animals in medical education as determined in the 2001 survey by Drs. Hansen and Boss. Advantages of using human-based training methods include anatomical accuracy, repeating procedures for proficiency, and long-term cost benefits. Simulated human tissues and body fluids provide a realistic experience. Successful strategies for continuing this trend of replacing animal laboratories for training medical students, based on this case study, will be discussed in detail.

This abstract was presented by the authors at the Fifth World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences, which took place in August 2005 in Berlin.