SIOUX FALLS, S.D.—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is pulling out all the stops to convince Sanford Health to stop using animals in a medical training course—even offering financial assistance with the transition. Sanford hosts the only remaining Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) course in the country that has not transitioned away from animals. The Physicians Committee this morning held a demonstration outside the company’s headquarters, with physician Kerry Foley speaking on the problems with translating emergency procedures from pigs to human patients.In addition, the organization is running billboards surrounding Sanford Health asking “Do they think you’re a pig?,” and it has made an offer of at least $3,000 to fund the use of a modern, purpose-designed simulator based on human anatomy.
The Physicians Committee’s offer to cover the cost of the rental of the TraumaMan System was sent via email this morning and comes as the 46-hospital system is facing serious financial problems, with its net income having dipped by 28% in 2021. The American College of Surgeons, which oversees ATLS courses, has approved the use of TraumaMan for more than 20 years.
The course in question is run by Sanford Medical Center Fargo and is conducted at North Dakota State University. It involves cutting into pigs to teach invasive procedures. Trainees make incisions and insert tubes and needles into an animal’s chest cavity, abdomen, throat, and the sac surrounding the heart. But this practice is completely out of step with modern standards of medical training. In fact, among the 385 accredited ATLS programs surveyed in the U.S. and Canada, Sanford’s is the only one still using animals. Meanwhile, the University of South Dakota, the South Dakota Department of Health, the North Dakota Department of Health, Avera McKennan Hospital, the University of North Dakota, and Sanford Health Bismarck all teach ATLS without animals.
“Training standards have moved on as Sanford Health sits idly by,” said John Pippin, MD, FACC, director of academic affairs with the Physicians Committee. “Sanford’s refusal to replace animals for trauma training is detrimental to their trainees and the public.”
For an interview with Dr. Pippin, a copy of the letter, ad locations, or ad design files, please contact Reina Pohl at 202-527-7326 or rpohl [at] pcrm.org.
Reina Pohl, MPH
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.