Good emergency medical skills can literally mean the difference between life and death. That’s why it’s so important that health care professionals who use these skills receive the best training available. Many physicians, medical students, and emergency responders go through a crucial training program called Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS). Most ATLS courses across the country use sophisticated manikins based on human anatomy. However, a handful of these programs continue to use live animals, all of whom are killed in the process.
Regulated by the American College of Surgeons, ATLS courses teach lifesaving procedures used for acute trauma injuries. These include procedures to relieve an obstructed airway, remove fluid from the sac surrounding the heart, and so forth.
A PCRM survey shows that out of 166 responding U.S. facilities offering ATLS courses, more than 90 percent exclusively use nonanimal models for instruction. Unfortunately, 12 of the responding programs continue to use live animals.
PCRM is working to reform the ATLS programs at these 12 institutions, including the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s (UMDNJ) University Hospital in Newark. PCRM’s Research Advocacy Department filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture requesting that its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) inspect the unlawful use of live pigs at University Hospital in July. The complaint charges that the hospital is violating the Animal Welfare Act, because nonanimal alternatives are available and in widespread use. These alternatives are endorsed by the American College of Surgeons.
UMDNJ’s University Hospital is the only New Jersey institution that still uses animals to teach ATLS. Four other ATLS programs, including two within the UMDNJ system—Cooper University Hospital in Camden and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick—all use nonanimal teaching tools, such as the TraumaMan System.
TraumaMan is an anatomical human body form that is widely used in military courses, EMS training, and other trauma surgery simulations. It is now the dominant method for teaching ATLS procedures. These realistic simulators come with lifelike human skin, subcutaneous fat, and muscle. They can even bleed. Unlike animals, the manikins duplicate human anatomy and allow students to repeatedly practice all the necessary procedures.
Prior to 2001, human cadavers were the only approved alternative to animals in ATLS courses, but that year the American College of Surgeons approved TraumaMan for this purpose.
PCRM’s efforts to reform University Hospital’s ATLS program received major media coverage, including a news article and opinion piece in the Newark Star-Ledger. New Jersey native and actor Lisa Edelstein, who plays Dr. Cuddy on FOX’s acclaimed medical drama House, wrote Dr. William F. Owen Jr., the president of UMDNJ, and asked him to replace the pigs with more humane teaching methods.