Rhode Island-born actress Mena Suvari (American Beauty, American Pie, and American Woman) is backing our efforts to improve medical education in the state.
Suvari sent a letter to Nicholas A. Mattiello, the state’s Speaker of the House of Representatives, in support of House Bill 5267 (H 5267), which prohibits the use of live animals for medical training. The bill needs to pass the House and then move onto Senate before being forwarded to the governor.
Several Physicians Committee doctor members testified in support of the bill in February of this year, and last week the Physicians Committee held a demonstration to urge Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital to eliminate the lethal use of pigs in their joint emergency medicine residency program. Area doctors Al Puerini, Katherine Williams, and Claire Warren were in attendance, along with Washington, D.C., emergency medicine physician Kerry Foley and several dozen area residents. H 5267 has the potential to make this animal use illegal.
According to an ongoing survey of programs in the United States and Canada, 95 percent (255 out of 267) exclude live animal use. Rhode Island Hospital’s Lifespan Medical Simulation Center could provide the resources to replace the use of live animals for training Brown’s emergency medicine residents.
Read Suvari’s letter below, and tell Brown it's time to modernize!
April 24, 2019
The Hon. Nicholas A. Mattiello
Speaker of the House
Rhode Island State House, Room 323
Providence, RI 02903
Dear Speaker Mattiello,
Having been born in Newport, Rhode Island holds a special place in my heart. I was so let down to learn that Brown University uses live animals in its emergency medicine residency at Rhode Island Hospital. Brown’s residents practice procedures on helpless animals despite the fact that 95 percent of other surveyed programs (254 out of 267) do not. I urge you to put an end to this lethal use of animals by supporting House Bill 5267.
The only other emergency medicine residency program in Rhode Island, Kent Hospital in Warwick, employs training methods based on human anatomy—methods that don’t harm animals. In addition, respected programs at Boston University, Massachusetts General Hospital, and at the University of Connecticut operate without using animals.
Meanwhile, at Brown, residents are instructed to cut into live pigs to practice airway procedures. After the training session, the animals are killed.
This is why I am so grateful to Representative Joseph J. Solomon for introducing a bill to the Rhode Island legislature that addresses this grave concern. H 5267 prohibits the use of live animals for medical student and resident training.
Using animals to teach human medicine is not only unethical, it’s illogical. The bodies of pigs and other animals are so different from the human body. Thankfully, there are effective, human-based training methods specifically designed to teach the lifesaving procedures that emergency medicine residents need to learn. Setting aside the ethics for one moment, I’d be incredibly alarmed if, in an emergency situation, my doctor had trained on an animal, rather than with these advanced methods.
Even the United States Department of Defense’s medical school has stopped using animals. Advanced Trauma Life Support courses taught within the U.S. military are no longer allowed to use animals. The U.S. Coast Guard stopped animal use for combat trauma training. Major Andrew Hall, M.D., U.S. Air Force researcher and medical training expert, has said that “we have entered into an age where artificial simulator models are at least equivalent, if not superior to, animal models.”
I’m far from the only person troubled by this egregious animal use. A 2018 survey found that 84 percent of people would prefer their doctor to be trained on methods that replicate human anatomy instead of on animals.
Four Rhode Island doctors have already testified in support of this bill on February 27, before the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare. Today, physicians and area residents will assemble outside of Brown’s medical school in a public display of support for H 5267. While I can’t attend today, I will be there in spirit.
Please vote Yes on H 5267 and encourage your colleagues to do the same. Rhode Island deserves it.