Ethics in Emergency Medicine Training

The Physicians Committee

Ethics in Emergency Medicine Training

The use of live animals in emergency medicine residency training was once common. Today, however, the majority of these programs, which follow medical school for physicians going into the specialty of emergency medicine, use nonanimal teaching methods.

Animals in Emergency Medicine Residencies

Emergency medicine residency programs teach a range of emergency procedures, including cricothyroidotomy (an incision in the neck to relieve an obstructed airway), pericardiocentesis (removing fluid from the sac that surrounds the heart), chest tube insertion (draining blood, fluid or air to allow the lung to fully expand), venous cutdown (an incision in a vein to insert a catheter), and diagnostic peritoneal lavage (an incision into the abdomen to insert a catheter in order to detect internal bleeding).


These procedures can all be taught using human-based medical simulators. Simulab’s TraumaMan System—a realistic anatomical human body simulator that has lifelike human skin, subcutaneous fat, and muscle—can be used to teach all of the above procedures. The TraumaMan System is approved by the American College of Surgeons to be used in emergency surgery courses similar to emergency medicine residency programs. Other simulators that can be used to teach some of these commonly taught procedures are Simulution’s Pericardiocentesis Simulator (for pericardiocentesis) and CAE Healthcare’s Human Patient Simulator (for chest tube insertion).

Animals used in these training programs experience numerous invasive procedures and are killed at the end of the training. The anatomical differences between the animals and humans render this type of training ineffective.

PCRM’s Survey of Emergency Medicine Programs

In 2013, PCRM began a nationwide survey of emergency medicine residency programs. Because of the large number of facilities in the United States the survey is ongoing, but the results thus far are encouraging. See the current results >