Alpert Medical School of Brown University 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, a nonprofit of more than 12,000 doctors. The vast majority of emergency medicine residency programs in the United States and Canada use only human-based methods, such as medical simulation, to train residents.
“Using live animals to teach human medicine is a substandard practice and Brown Alpert Medical School should switch to simulation,” says John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., a Dallas physician and director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee. “Lifelike human patient simulators and other human-relevant training methods can provide emergency medicine residents the skills they need to save human lives, with the important advantages of anatomic fidelity and repetition to hone procedural skills.”
According to an ongoing survey by the Physicians Committee, 94 percent of emergency medicine residencies—including the only other program in Rhode Island, Kent Hospital in Warwick—exclusively use human-based training methods. In addition, other New England programs at Boston University, Maine Medical Center in Portland, and the University of Connecticut use only nonanimal methods to train residents.
The Lifespan Medical Simulation Center is affiliated with Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and the simulation center offers life-like human patient simulators that could replace the use of live animals in the emergency medicine residency.
The Animal Welfare Act’s implementing regulations require that a principal investigator—including course instructors—consider alternatives to the use of animals for such training. The Physicians Committee’s complaint, which is 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: A pig in a research lab. Pigs like her are being killed unnecessarily by Brown University’s Albert Medical School. Image credit Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals.