MINNEAPOLIS–The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine—a national nonprofit of more than 12,000 doctors—is coordinating a host of activities Wednesday in a concerted effort to convince Hennepin Healthcare to abandon animal use in its emergency medicine residency training in favor of human-relevant training methods. Actions planned include a physician-led demonstration, the delivery of a petition with 72,000 signatures, and a doctor’s statement at the Board of Directors meeting. All the while, five mobile billboards will circle Hennepin’s facilities as well as nearby television station WCCO-CBS and the Star Tribune.
Wednesday morning, concerned members of the public and Kerry Foley, M.D., will hold a demonstration outside Hennepin’s campus, carrying a banner and signs that read “End Animal Labs” and “Modernize Medical Training.”
Following the demonstration, Dr. Foley, a retired emergency medicine doctor of more than 25 years will present comments to the Board of Directors at their 12:30 p.m. meeting. Dr. Foley will also represent the Physicians Committee in delivering 72,000 signatures on a petition that urges Hennepin to modernize its medical training by eliminating animal use in its emergency medicine residency program.
The five mobile billboards that will circulate through downtown Minneapolis from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. will read “Hennepin Healthcare Board of Directors: End Live Animal Labs. MinnesotaDeservesBetter.org” and “What does Hennepin Healthcare have that 95% of emergency medicine residencies don’t? Live Animal Labs. MinnesotaDeservesBetter.org.”
Currently, 95 percent (216 of 228) of surveyed emergency medicine programs in the United States and Canada—including regional programs at the University of Iowa, Indiana University, University of Wisconsin, and Northwestern University—train residents without using animals, employing modern nonanimal training methods instead.
At Hennepin, however, live rabbits and sheep are used in an emergency skills training lab. Emergency medicine residents and department staff 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. If they survive the invasive procedures, the animals (up to 200 per year) are killed following the training sessions.
Hennepin already has a state-of-the-art facility that could provide the patient simulation resources to replace this use of animals.
“Human-based training methods are tried and true in the United States and Canada. Animal use, on the other hand, should be put in the dustbin of medical training history. Simply put, Minnesota deserves better, and we’re here to call upon Hennepin’s board to take action,” says Dr. Foley, who earned her M.D. and completed her residency at Georgetown University before beginning her 26-year career practicing emergency medicine.
To speak with Dr. Foley or for a copy of the statement to the Board of Directors, please contact Reina Pohl at 202-527-7326 or RPohl@PCRM.org.
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.