At Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) in Minneapolis, live rabbits and sheep are used in an emergency skills training lab. Emergency medicine residents, department staff, and other trainees practice procedures on the animals, including making incisions into the throat to insert a breathing tube, inserting needles into the chest to remove fluid surrounding the heart, splitting open the breastbone in order to access the heart, performing various cardiac procedures, cutting the skin and ligament at the lateral corner of the eye to relieve pressure behind the eye, and drilling holes into the skull. According to documents obtained by the Physicians Committee, the procedures are continued even if the animal dies while on the operating table. If the animal does survive all of the procedures, he is killed following the training session. The medical center is approved to use up to 200 rabbits and sheep per year.
This animal use is at odds with current standards of practice. Today, 89 percent of surveyed emergency medicine residency programs in the United States (144 of 162) use nonanimal training methods such as human-based medical simulation, cadavers, and partial task trainers. Those methods allow each trainee to repeat procedures, hone skills, and learn at his or her own pace, without harming animals. In fact, regional emergency medicine residency programs at the University of Iowa, Indiana University, the University of Wisconsin, and Northwestern University, all exclusively use nonanimal training methods.
HCMC already has a state-of-the-art simulation center that could provide the resources to replace animal use in the emergency medicine program.
Even with the availability of validated human-relevant methods, HCMC continues the practice of using live animals to train residents. Please take action and ask the hospital to end this educationally inferior and inhumane practice by making the switch to simulation—because Minnesota deserves better.
Reina Pohl, M.P.H.
Research and Education Program Specialist
Other Active Programs: