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The Physicians Committee



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NEWS RELEASE January 10, 2002

Doctors Declare Victory in Battle Over Gruesome Nipple Surgery Labs

WASHINGTON—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) today praised Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery (DMU) for ending a controversial surgical exercise in which medical students cut off the nipples of live dogs and then sewed them back on. The Washington, D.C.-based doctors group had been campaigning against the gruesome laboratories for the past 18 months.

In dropping the animal surgery laboratory, DMU joins a common trend in medical education. Three-quarters of U.S. medical schools, including Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, have dropped all animal laboratories from their curricula. "There is never a need for practicing surgery in animals," said PCRM president Neal D. Barnard, M.D. "Surgical skill relies on knowing human anatomy, not dog anatomy. Training on animals teaches students the wrong anatomical landmarks and the wrong 'feel.'"

In surgical residencies, doctors in training learn the individual components of surgery, one at a time, without ever using animals. Once trainees are skilled at suturing on simulators or Styrofoam blocks, they are then allowed to sew up minor cuts under close supervision. They will then learn the other surgical techniques, such as incisions or cauterizing bleeding vessels, while working alongside more experienced surgeons in the human operating room.

PCRM had sent the university extensive information on nonanimal training methods, including a videotape narrated by famed surgeon Henry Heimlich, M.D., depicting Harvard Medical School's use of nonanimal teaching methods.

"The faculty, the students—and quite a few dogs—will breathe a sigh of relief," Dr. Barnard said.

Dr. Barnard noted that many aspects of medical training are undergoing the same change. Approximately 20 U.S. medical centers offer advanced trauma training courses using simulators or cadavers, instead of live animals.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.



Media Contact:
Jeanne S. McVey
202-527-7316
jeannem@pcrm.org

 

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