Penn State Medical Center’s Lethal Animal Use Violates Federal Law


Pennsylvania State University Milton S. Hershey Medical Center is using live pigs to teach invasive procedures to its emergency medicine residents in violation of federal law, according to a complaint filed by the Physicians  Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a nonprofit consisting of more than 12,000 doctors, including 479 in Pennsylvania. The vast majority of emergency medicine residency programs in the United States and Canada use human-based methods, such as medical simulation, to train residents.

“Not only is it ethically unjustifiable, using live animals to teach human medicine is simply a substandard practice,” says John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., Dallas physician and director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee. “When almost all other programs use human-relevant training methods, it’s time to step into the 21st century and move beyond the crude practice of using animals.”

Simulation mannequins like this are part of what makes up a superior non-animal medical training program. Image credit U.S. Pacific Fleet, CC BY-SA 3.0.

According to a survey by the Physicians Committee, 94 percent of emergency medicine residencies (248 of 264) exclusively use superior non-animal training methods, including local programs at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (Pittsburgh and Erie campuses), the University of Pennsylvania, and Drexel University.

The university has a state-of-the-art facility—the Penn State Hershey Clinical Simulation Center—which offers a range of high-fidelity mannequins and partial task trainers that could provide the simulation capabilities to replace the use of animals in the emergency medicine residency.

The Animal Welfare Act’s implementing regulations require that a principal investigator—including course instructors—consider alternatives to procedures that may cause more than momentary or slight pain or distress to any animal used for research or educational purposes. The Physicians Committee’s complaint, which was filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, cites violations of the Animal Welfare Act and inadequate oversight of the training protocol by the school’s animal care and use committee.

Featured image: Pigs like these ones are being used in lethal medical trainings at Penn State’s Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Image credit Kevin, CC BY-SA 3.0.

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Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research and medical training. Click to see author's profile.

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