Ethics in Trauma Training

The Physicians Committee

Ethics in Trauma Training

The use of live animals in Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) courses was once common. Today, however, the vast majority of these courses use nonanimal teaching tools.

Background on ATLS

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). In 2001 the American College of Surgeons (ACS), which oversees ATLS courses, approved the use of Simulab’s TraumaMan System simulator for teaching the courses. The ACS also previously approved the use of cadavers. But before 2001, most ATLS courses used live animals (mostly dogs, goats, and pigs) as teaching tools.

PCRM’s Survey of ATLS Programs

In 2007, PCRM began a nationwide survey of facilities that offer ATLS courses. Because of the large number of facilities in the United States the survey is ongoing, but the results thus far have been encouraging. See the current results >

Take Action to Stop Live Animal Use in ATLS Courses

In 2008, PCRM escalated its efforts to end the use of live animals in ATLS courses. Our first campaign was launched in June, and there will be more to come as we work to end this cruel and unnecessary practice. Take action >

Trauma Training for Nurses

In addition to the rapid trend away from animal use in physician trauma training courses, most courses of this kind for nurses also use high-fidelity medical simulators. Transport Nurse Advanced Trauma Courses (TNATC) teach ATLS-like surgical skills to nurses who work on airborne medical evacuations and rescue operations. According to the Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association, the organization that oversees TNATC courses, only one of the 30 courses held in 2010 used animals, with the majority opting instead for medical simulators.