For decades, animal advocates have been campaigning to end the use of live animals to teach students medical procedures at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) in Bethesda, Md., and their work has finally paid off.
USUHS, the only military medical school in the U.S., has announced it will stop using live animals in its training programs and will now be using simulators to teach surgical skills and physiology, reports the AP. The school said it began phasing out the use of live animals in 2000 with the opening of the National Capital Area Medical Simulation Center.
The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and other medical professionals have been working on this issue for years in an effort to convince the school to stop using and killing dogs, ferrets, gerbils and pigs, among other animals, to teach medical students surgical procedures, which most other schools have stopped doing. Unfortunately for students at USUHS who objected to the use of animals, they couldn’t just refuse to participate or transfer out because of their military obligations.
“We are shocked and we didn’t think they would change. It’s pretty exciting,” Jeanne Stuart McVey, a spokeswoman for PCRM, told the Washington Post.
In 2008, PCRM filed a petition with the Department of Defense based on the agency’s own mandate that alternatives to animals be used when available that claimed the practice of using live animals “inherently and unavoidably causes pain, distress, and suffering to those animals.” USUHS stopped using ferrets to teach students how to insert breathing tubes and switched to simulators that year, but continued using pigs to teach surgical procedures.
“For every instance where they’re using live animals, there are methods that can be used instead that would provide either equivalent or superior educational value,” John Pippin, M.D., director of academic affairs for PCRM, said at the time. “To abuse and take the life of an animal, especially for a purpose that is served better by not doing so, is gratuitous and unethical.”
Advances in technology and the wide-spread availability of sophisticated human-based simulators have made it harder and harder for the last educational institutions that still use animals to continue to defend the practice of harming and destroying living creatures in an effort to teach students how to perform various procedures. Some experts believe that these simulators are more effective when it comes to teaching both medical and veterinary students than using live animals.
According to PCRM, there are now only four accredited medical schools left that continue to use live animals to teach students, including the University of Mississippi, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Oregon Health and Science University. The organization stated that it will continue to work with them to help them transition to humane non-animal alternatives.
Please sign and share the petition asking the University of Mississippi to stop using live animals and switch to humane alternatives.
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