The University of Washington (UW) uses live pigs to teach a surgical airway procedure to paramedic students, practicing paramedics, and flight nurses. The program instructs trainees to make an incision in the throat of a live pig to insert a breathing tube. This procedure is performed up to six times on each pig. At the end of each training session, the animal is killed.
Human-based training methods are widely implemented at paramedic training programs across the Pacific Northwest. According to our survey of 16 regional programs, UW’s is the only one using animals. In addition, 99 percent of Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) programs in the United States and Canada (275 of 277) do not use animals for the training of surgical airway or any other skills. Also, as of Jan. 2015 the Department of Defense ended the use of animals for military ATLS training.
When using pigs to teach surgical airway, a proper procedure can only be performed once. After the first attempt, other participants must practice the procedure on areas of the throat that are not similar to real-life landmarks. The TraumaMan System, a realistic human body simulator, provides the opportunity to perform a proper surgical airway repeatedly by replacing the “tissue” above the simulated trachea, giving each trainee a “first cut” experience.
In fact, UW’s simulation center maintains numerous human-based training devices, including the TraumaMan System, which can replace the use of animals immediately.
Despite the availability of these human-based methods, UW continues to use live animals to train paramedics. Please take action and ask the UW Board of Regents to use its authority to end this educationally inferior and inhumane practice—because Washington deserves better.