Victory! Johns Hopkins Ends Use of Live Animals for Medical Training

Care2 readers, you’ve done it again. Your petitions and pleas have helped achieve freedom for animals. Johns Hopkins University decided it will no longer use live animals to train medical students. You’ve helped saved the lives of countless pigs.

“Given that almost all medical schools have stopped using live animals in medical student education and that the experience is not essential, the School of Medicine has decided that the use of live animals in the surgical clerkship should stop,” Johns Hopkins officials told students on May 18. Use of live animals will stop in June 2016.

This is welcome news indeed. Johns Hopkins reviewed the state of medical training and decided using live animals is simply not required anymore. True, this decision comes in part due to pressure from animal activists. Remember, though, that Johns Hopkins is a top flight medical school. Rest assured that this institution would never stop a practice it truly believed was critical to training excellent physicians unless that practice could safely be dropped.

doctor holding pig

The fact that so many medical schools made this same decision in recent years speaks volumes. Put simply, new doctors don’t need to work on live animals anymore to learn.

Pigs have long been a popular substitute for live humans in medical training and experimentation. That’s because biologically, pigs share several important anatomical and physiologic similarities with humans. Their cardiovascular system is nearly identical to ours. They develop similar health issues and respond the way we do to medical problems. The heart of a pig is so similar to ours that medical schools chose to use pigs to understand how a heart functions and how to perform cardiovascular surgery.

The pig’s uncanny systemic similarity to us has unfortunately doomed it to decades of experimentation and use as a human substitute in medical training. At Johns Hopkins, for example, medical students learned to make incisions into anesthetized pigs, suture such incisions, and insert endoscopes — a sort of tube with a camera — into the pigs’ bodies. At the conclusion of these training sessions, the school euthanized the pigs.

The sad reality is that pigs are so similar to us that we’ve abused them to learn more about ourselves. Today, we have alternatives equally or even more useful. There is no need to subject living animals to experimentation and death. One by one, thanks to the persistent efforts of groups like the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), medical schools have turned to these new alternatives.

surgery

“If they were passing students without the course and they were becoming good physicians without using animals, it would be hard to say it’s essential,” Dr. John J. Pippin, PCRM’s director of academic affairs, told the Baltimore Sun. “Every other elite medical school also has stopped using animals.”

Medical computer simulation offers incredible state of the art training without any of the ethical implications of using animals as human substitutes. Why should another living creature have to give up its life because this early training is so dangerous to its subjects? Yes, it’s beneficial to humans, but now that it’s not necessary, it needs to stop.

Think of it this way: commercial and military pilots learn first on a computer flight simulator before they ever apply their newly learned skills in the air. It’s not unreasonable for new doctors to begin training via computer before touching a real, live person.

Johns Hopkins’ decision means there’s now only a single medical school holdout. Only one of almost 200 schools in all of the United States and Canada continues to use live animals for medical training. It’s the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) Chattanooga. Why? When every top level medical school from Harvard to Johns Hopkins says using animals is simply not required, why does one school continue this unnecessary, ethically questionable and antiquated practice?

Do you want to tell UTHSC Chattanooga that it’s time to join the rest of North America’s medical schools and drag itself into the 21st century? Do you want to urge the school to stop using live animals to train medical students without delay? If so, please sign this petition. Care2 will ensure your signatures get to UTHSC Executive Dean David M. Stern, M.D., and UTHSC Chattanooga Interim Dean Robert C. Fore, Ed.D.

This final domino must fall.  You can help make that happen.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

222 comments

Glennis W
Glennis W7 months ago

Deplorable Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W7 months ago

Should never have happened in the 1st place Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W7 months ago

Petition signed and shared Thank you for caring and sharing

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Lesa D
Past Member 7 months ago

#31376 petition signed...

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Lesa D
Past Member 7 months ago

thank you Susan...

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Greta L
Alice L7 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara7 months ago

th

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JoAnn Paris
JoAnn P7 months ago

Petition signed.

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Renata B
Renata B7 months ago

Very happy with this. I had signed still in 2016 I think (May).

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Jetana A
Jetana A7 months ago

This was great news 2 years ago. Have more medical schools followed suit? PLEASE UPDATE THE ARTICLE, Care2.

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