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  1. News Release

  2. Dec 8, 2022

Doctors Urge OHSU to Follow UW’s Lead and Replace Animals in Deadly Medical Training

Physicians Group Files Federal Complaint and Installs Metro Area Billboards

PORTLAND, Ore.—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit of more than 17,000 doctor members, is drawing attention to Oregon Health and Sciences University’s use of live animals in its surgery residency program. Eye-catching billboards installed this week surround OHSU’s Marquam Hill Campus, with two just off SW Naito Parkway and one on SE Powell Boulevard. They read: “Does OHSU Think You’re a Pig? Stop Killing Animals to Train Doctors.” and feature a patient’s point of view in a stark white operating room, looking up at a surgeon with tools in her hands. In addition to the billboards, the Physicians Committee today filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, requesting that the agency investigate OHSU’s use of live pigs for training general surgery residents. The university has been cited by the USDA for 31 violations since 2014, including 14 violations risking injuries or deaths. The group is urging OHSU to follow the lead of the University of Washington, which recently replaced pigs in its surgery program.

OHSU’s residents are instructed to cut into live pigs and perform invasive procedures as part of their training, even though 206 of 262 surveyed U.S. surgery programs do not use animals. The pigs are subjected to at least 35 different invasive procedures before they are killed, some of which include: placing a chest tube (to drain air, blood, or other fluids), inserting a breathing tube into the throat, inserting a needle into the sac around the heart, and inserting surgical tools and a camera to remove or perform procedures on the animal’s internal organs.  

The Physicians Committee’s complaint to the USDA points out that, under the Animal Welfare Act, researchers and course instructors must consider alternatives to procedures that may cause more than momentary or slight pain or distress to an animal. All other civilian surgery programs in Oregon and Washington—including the University of Washington, Samaritan Health Regional Medical Center in Corvallis, and Swedish Medical Center—use only human-relevant nonanimal methods for training, devices that simulate human anatomy. These simulators can include layers of lifelike skin, muscle, fat, and blood vessels. They can bleed, and some of them provide lifelike physiological responses. Compared to the human body, pigs have smaller torsos, lighter limbs, and thicker skin. There are also important differences in the anatomy of the head and neck, internal organs, rib cage, blood vessels, and the airway. 

“It’s not just OHSU’s reputation that’s on the line here,” says Mary Carr, MD, a retired emergency medicine physician residing in Vancouver. “Future surgeons in excellent residency programs throughout the country are training using simulation that replicates human anatomy. It’s time for OHSU to modernize its training methods and close the chapter on animal use.”

For a copy of the federal complaint or to see the billboard artwork or locations, please contact Reina Pohl at 202-527-7326 or rpohl [at] (rpohl[at]pcrm[dot]org).

Media Contact

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.

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