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PCRM Works to End Animal Use in Pediatrics Training

PCRM Works to End Animal Use in Pediatrics Trainingferrets used in pediatrics trainingPediatrics residents at the University of Washington force plastic tubes down ferrets’ windpipes to practice endotracheal intubation. PCRM recently launched a campaign to end the use of animals for pediatrics training at the University of Washington and other schools. Since PCRM’s campaign started last year, one school has already switched from using ferrets and rabbits to using modern simulators.

The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, Texas, used ferrets to teach endotracheal intubation. It used rabbits to teach chest tube placement, which involved making an incision between the animal’s ribs and pushing a plastic tube into the chest cavity. Each year, the school used 10 ferrets and four rabbits. PCRM contacted the school last fall about switching to modern nonanimal methods, and in December invoked the Texas Open Records Act to obtain information about the program’s animal use. In March, the chair of the school’s pediatrics department contacted PCRM to confirm that they had stopped using animals as of Jan. 1, 2011.

But the University of Washington (UW) continues to use ferrets. PCRM doctors filed a federal complaint against UW for its abuse of animals. Animals used in these training procedures often suffer tracheal bruising, bleeding, scarring, and severe pain, and some have died. The ferrets are used repeatedly with only two weeks between procedures.

The Premie HAL simulator










“It is unnecessary to traumatize and harm animals to teach pediatric medical procedures, especially when validated simulators are widely available,” says pediatrician Leslie Brown, M.D., a PCRM member who co-signed the federal complaint. “A human infant’s anatomy is different from a ferret’s, and residents at the university can get a better education using human patient simulators.”

The Premie HAL and Premie Blue simulators from Gaumard are specifically designed to replicate the anatomy of premature newborns and have an anatomically correct airway, including a tongue, vocal cords, and trachea.

Almost 90 percent of pediatrics residencies in the United States already use nonanimal education methods. Studies have shown that residents trained using simulators display great proficiency in pediatric intubation, compared with those who practice on animals. PCRM will continue to push to end this practice.    

Take action and watch a video of Premie HAL at


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