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The Physicians Committee

The Future Is Now in Medical Training: PCRM Shows Congress the Power of Medical Simulation
June 22, 2012

Synthetic Human, from SynDaver Labs®
Synthetic Human from SynDaver Labs

For many years, PCRM physicians have been pushing the military to improve its training methods and abandon its use of live animals to train medical personnel. Not only are these laboratory exercises cruel to animals; they are also substandard training. What wounded soldier would want to hear that his or her doctor had been trained by practicing procedures once or twice on a goat? Human-based simulators are an anatomically correct adjunct to clinical training that are much better for all concerned.

PCRM’s Elizabeth Kucinich and Noah Gittell have been educating Members of Congress and working to pass the BEST Practices Act, a bill that phases in advanced medical simulation technology to replace animal use. I’ve asked Elizabeth and Noah to share with you the latest from Capitol Hill:

“There is a revolution coming in surgical education, and I don’t believe that it will be based on operations taught on animals that have vast anatomic dissimilarities from humans.”

Elizabeth Kucinich with Sythetic Human from SynDaver
PCRM director of government affairs Elizabeth Kucinich with Synthetic Human from SynDaver Labs

Those were the words of Dr. Robert Buckman at yesterday’s Capitol Hill briefing on the use of live animals in the U.S. military’s combat trauma training courses. A world-reknowned surgeon with 30 years experience in the Army reserves and past director of the busiest trauma center in Philadelphia, Dr. Buckman is working to ensure that our troops receive the most modern and effective training possible by developing and promoting the use of high-fidelity medical simulation to treat traumatic injuries. We invited Dr. Buckman, as well as representatives from SynDaver Labs and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), to educate Congress on this important issue.

Currently, the military uses pigs and goats to train military personnel to respond to battlefield injuries. In these courses, trainees practice tourniquet application, airway management, and chest tube insertion, among other procedures. At the end of each course, the animals, usually only 1-2 years old, are killed. In some of these courses, animals are shot or have their limbs amputated with tree trimmers, and the trainees are instructed to keep them alive as long as possible—which can take hours.

We are showing Congress a better way. More than 60 key congressional staffers filed into the Capitol Visitor’s Center briefing room to see two of the best trauma simulators. The Synthetic Human, from SynDaver Labs®, is the closest thing to live tissue available today. This validated product, which features synthetic blood, muscle, tissue, and skin, wowed the audience with its realism.

Operative Experience demonstration

The Department of Defense has often stated that, when it comes to trauma training, nothing can match the intensity of working on a living being. Well, Operative Experience provided a strong counterpoint. The company’s sophisticated products provided all of the blood-and-guts factor that the DoD has said is crucial to this training. And as Dr. Buckman pointed out, for tourniquet application, cricothyrotomy, bilateral traumatic amputation, or transfacial gunshot wounds, either the animal models are subpar, compared with medical simulation, or there is no animal model at all.

In the civilian medical sector, simulation has become the gold standard. While pigs, goats, and dogs were once used to teach some of these skills in Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) courses, 98 percent of ATLS courses in the United States and Canada have now switched to simulation. Because advances in medical simulation have occurred so rapidly, many of the decision-makers in Congress and at the DoD are not yet aware of how real the simulators have become. That’s why PCRM’s congressional briefings are so vital. By giving Congress the opportunity to see, hear, and touch this technology, we are a step closer toward ensuring that medical personnel receive the best training possible and that no further animal lives are wasted in this way.


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