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  1. News Release

  2. Nov 15, 2019

UW’s Deadly Animal Use for Surgery Practice Under Fire

Doctors and Locals Urge End to Live Animal Use in Surgery Residency

SEATTLE—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine—a national nonprofit with more than 12,000 doctor members—is urging the University of Washington (UW) to end the use of live animals in its surgery residency program. On Thursday morning, the group held a demonstration outside UW Medical Center, where UW surgery residents practice procedures on live pigs. Emergency medicine physician Kerry Foley, of Washington, D.C., and Seattle area residents were in attendance, with a banner and signs that read “Modernize Medical Training” and “End Animal Use.” Throughout the day, mobile billboards with similar messaging circled the campus.

At UW, live pigs are once again used for training in the general surgery residency. The training is also offered to community surgeons, a likely source of revenue for UW. Compared to humans, 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.

UW’s recent reintroduction of the use of live animals in its general surgery residency follows a five-year span during which human-relevant methods were used exclusively for training surgery residents. The stimulus for resuming animal use was the availability of new external funding. According to a federal complaint filed by the Physicians Committee in June, this use of animals is in violation of the Animal Welfare Act.

Currently, 154 of 215 surveyed surgery residency programs in the United States exclude live animal use from training. All other civilian programs in Washington—including St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tacoma and Swedish Medical Center/First Hall in Seattle—use human-relevant methods alone. Instead of animals, human-patient simulators, laparoscopic simulators, virtual reality simulators, and human cadavers, which can be used to teach all surgical procedures, are widely used. The simulators accurately replicate human anatomy and can include layers of lifelike skin, fat, and muscle. Prior to reinstating this animal use, UW used its WWAMI Institute for Simulation in Healthcare (WISH) to train surgery residents over the past five years.

“UW improved this training five years ago when they began exclusively using human-relevant training methods,” said Physicians Committee director of academic affairs, John Pippin, MD, FACC. “Having seen that nonanimal training methods produce excellent surgeons, UW nonetheless took advantage of available funding to buy, injure, and kill pigs, just because they can.”

To interview Dr. Foley or to see the billboard artwork or route, please contact Reina Pohl at 202-527-7326 or

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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