The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a national nonprofit with more than 12,000 doctor members, is urging Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital to end the use of live animals in their joint emergency medicine residency program. The group recently held a demonstration outside Rhode Island Hospital, where Brown residents practice emergency medicine procedures on live pigs. Local doctors Al Puerini and Katherine Williams were in attendance, along with Washington, D.C., emergency medicine physician Kerry Foley and area residents, holding a banner and signs that read “Modernize Medical Training” and “End Animal Use.”
In February, Rhode Island Representative Joseph J. Solomon, Jr., introduced a bill to prohibit the use of live animals in medical education. The bill has the potential to make the animal use at Brown illegal. Rhode Island-born actress Mena Suvari, of the films American Beauty, American Pie, and American Woman, penned a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nicholas A. Mattiello, in support of the bill.
At Brown, live pigs are used for training emergency medicine residents, but compared with 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.
According to an ongoing survey of programs in the United States and Canada, 95 percent (255 out of 267) exclude live animal use. Instead of animals, human-based medical simulators and human cadavers, which can be used to teach all emergency procedures, are widely used. The simulators accurately replicate human anatomy and physiology and can include layers of lifelike skin, fat, and muscle. Rhode Island Hospital’s Lifespan Medical Simulation Center could provide the resources to replace the use of live animals for training Brown’s emergency medicine residents.
“We’re hopeful that Brown and Rhode Island Hospital will make the decision to modernize emergency medicine training by switching to human-relevant methods before state law gives them no other option,” said Physicians Committee member Kerry Foley, M.D. “We’re appreciative that Representative Solomon is addressing this issue state-wide.”
Featured image: a recent demonstration at Rhode Island Hospital again the use of live animals to teach medical procedures. Image via PCRM.