A prominent physicians' group has asked federal regulators to investigate Brown University's medical school, arguing it is violating the law by using live pigs for training in emergency medicine. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine on Tuesday asked the US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to investigate animal use at the Warren Alpert Medical School at the Ivy League university. Brown, in Providence, RI, violated the federal Animal Welfare Act because alternatives to animal use exist, so using pigs for emergency medicine training is not justified or unavoidable, alleges Dr. John Pippin, director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee, which the AP reports represents more than 12,000 doctors.
More than 90% of emergency medicine residency programs in the United States and Canada use only human-based training methods, such as medical simulation or cadavers. Simulators allow repetition, so if residents err when putting a chest tube in, for instance, they can do it again, Pippin says. The models also do a better job at representing human anatomy, he adds: A pig's skin is thicker and the trachea far deeper than on a person, so a resident could not cut a hole for a blocked airway on a person in the same way they would on a pig, for example. There are 16 programs the committee knows of that still use live animals, and most use pigs. Pippin says he has reached out to all 16, and drafted a letter regarding Brown only after getting nowhere with the school.
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