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  1. News Release

  2. Jul 2, 2024

RIPTA Refuses to Let the Public Know “Brown and Rhode Island Hospital Think You’re a Pig”; Doctors Sue

Federal Lawsuit Claims First Amendment Violation Related to Ads about Use of Animals for Medical Training

PROVIDENCE, R.I.—The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) is shielding two of the state’s most powerful institutions from public criticism, according to a national medical ethics group, which filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the agency in federal court today. Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital have for years come under scrutiny for using live animals to train emergency medicine doctors, a practice replaced by 97% of medical centers. But when the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine tried to run ads on bus shelters across Providence declaring “Brown and Rhode Island Hospital Think You’re a Pig,” RIPTA rejected the proposal.

In the emergency medicine residency program run by Brown and Rhode Island Hospital, trainees cut open pigs’ necks to practice a single procedure called a surgical airway. Programs run by Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins University, and hundreds of other institutions across the United States and Canada instead use devices modeled on human anatomy, including simulators and lifelike 3D-printed models, which allow residents to repeatedly practice procedures.

“Patients headed to the ER deserve doctors trained on human anatomy, but Brown and Rhode Island Hospital are instead asking doctors to translate pig anatomy to humans,” said Margaret Peppercorn, MD, FAAP, a resident of Portsmouth who trained at Harvard Medical School. “The public deserves to know this.”

“RIPTA is keeping the public from crucial information about how their doctors are trained,” said Mark Kennedy, senior vice president of legal affairs for the Physicians Committee. “By unlawfully protecting Brown and Rhode Island Hospital, the agency is encouraging a practice that is wildly out of step with mainstream medicine.”

The issue has raised serious concerns among state lawmakers. Earlier this year, Rep. Patricia Serpa and Sen. John Burke introduced H 7234 and S 2398, respectively. The legislation would require medical centers to use nonanimal methods to train doctors if such methods exist and are used by another similar educational program within the state. In this case, both standards are met since Kent Hospital in Warwick trains emergency medicine residents without animals.  In April, a group of physicians testified in support of Burke’s bill, during which they pointed to numerous scientific studies showing that animals are unnecessary to teach surgical airway and other emergency procedures.

To interview Dr. Peppercorn or to see the rejected ad or a copy of the lawsuit, 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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