At the University of Missouri School of Medicine (MU) in Columbia, live pigs are used to teach procedural skills to emergency medicine residents. Trainees are instructed to cut into the animal’s throat, chest, and abdominal cavity to insert needles and tubes, and to spread the ribs in order to access the heart. According to the animal use protocol, the procedures continue even if the animal dies while on the operating table. If the animals survive the invasive procedures, they are killed before the final procedure is performed.
This animal use is at odds with current standards of practice. Today, 95 percent of surveyed emergency medicine residency programs in the United States and Canada (229 of 242) use only nonanimal training methods, such as human-based medical simulation and cadavers. These methods allow trainees to repeat procedures, hone skills, and learn at their own pace, without harming animals or patients. In fact, all other emergency medicine residency programs in the state—including Washington University in St. Louis and MU’s Kansas City campus—exclusively use human-based training methods.
MU already has a state-of-the-art facility—the Shelden Clinical Simulation Center—that could provide the resources to replace animal use in the emergency medicine residency program.
Even with the availability of validated human-relevant methods, MU continues the practice of using live animals to train residents. Please take action and ask the university to end this educationally inferior and inhumane practice by making the switch to simulation—because Missouri deserves better.
Reina Pohl, M.P.H.
Research and Education Programs Specialist
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