Officials at Montgomery County Hospital District (MCHD) have announced an end to the use of live animals in its paramedic training program. Just last week, on Jan. 12, the Physicians Committee—a nonprofit representing more than 12,000 concerned physicians—filed a federal complaint with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service regarding MCHD’s animal use, citing violations of the Animal Welfare Act and inadequate oversight of the training protocol by the animal care and use committee. Noting changing norms of medical education that eschew animal use, MCHD confirmed that the paramedic training session held at Baylor College of Medicine on Sept. 19-21, 2016, will be its final animal lab.
The last paramedic training program in the state of Texas to use animals, MCHD now joins the 46 other hospitals and colleges that teach first responders crucial, life-saving procedures using human-based methods. We at the Physicians Committee now look to the paramedic training program at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle, hopeful that it will follow MCHD’s lead and abandon animal use in favor of modern training methods. UW uses lives pigs—just as Baylor and MCHD did—to teach a procedure called surgical airway.
To prepare paramedics for the work they will perform throughout their careers, training must be human-focused, not animal-focused, due to the significant anatomical and physiological differences across species. Modern simulators allow residents to practice procedural skills on models designed to replicate human anatomy and physiology.
MCHD’s leadership deserves recognition for making this educationally and ethically sound decision. We congratulate Montgomery County Hospital District for reviewing best training practices and ending its animal use.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research and medical training.