Combat Trauma Training

The Physicians Committee
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GET INVOLVED: If you serve in the military and would like to learn more or get involved, contact us at rmerkley@pcrm.org.

Combat Trauma Training
 

The men and women who serve in the U.S. military deserve the best medical training possible. Yet the Department of Defense (DOD) continues to train personnel in combat trauma courses using animals when superior human-relevant methods are widely available. The animals—more than 8,500 goats and pigs each year— are often stabbed, shot with firearms, burned, and have their limbs amputated before being killed. The use of animals in this training is unnecessary and has been phased out of nearly all civilian trauma programs and an increasing number of military training centers, which now use high-tech simulators modeled on human anatomy to teach the procedures that some military personnel still learn on animals.

But Congress is getting involved. The BEST Practices Act would phase out this animal-based training and replace it with superior methods. Contact your House member and Senators  today and ask them to co-sponsor the legislation.

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Background
 

While most of the civilian sector and some military training centers have already transitioned to human-based methods for teaching the treatment of severe trauma, overall the U.S. military lags behind. Many trauma centers in the Army, Air Force, and Navy use only simulators. DOD’s medical school, Uniformed Services University, stopped using animals in 2013. In 2014, the U.S. Coast Guard committed to reducing by half the number of animals it uses for combat trauma training exercises. Further, as of 2015, Advanced Trauma Life Support courses across the U.S. military were no longer allowed to use animals.

Practicing on anesthetized pigs and goats, who differ from humans on many anatomical levels, poorly prepares medics and corpsmen to treat wounds in actual combat situations. As a result of these anatomical differences, it is impossible to mimic human wounds, including injuries to the head, face, and limbs. Medical training devices, including simulators, are based on human anatomy and offer lifelike skin, fat, and muscle. Their limbs are based on the weight and feel of the human body. Using simulators, trainees can practice skills repeatedly.

Learn more about simulators.