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The Physicians Committee

NEWS RELEASE October 15, 2009

Doctors Urge Mass General to Stop Using Sheep in Lethal Procedures

Physician-Led Demonstration at Hospital on Oct. 15 to Feature Banner:

BOSTON—Massachusetts General Hospital should end the unnecessary use of live sheep in a trauma training course, says a national physicians group. Doctors with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), including cardiologist John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., will join concerned Massachusetts residents on Oct. 15 for a physician-led demonstration outside the hospital. Using live animals for Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) training is a violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act because nonanimal methods are widely available and used at most other institutions, PCRM says.

Protestors at Massachusetts General Hospital, or MGH, will carry a banner reading, "MGH: Training Doctors or Teaching Cruelty?" Doctors will also deliver a letter signed by Boston-area physicians to MGH president Peter Slavin, M.D., urging a move to nonanimal methods.

ATLS training at MGH involves cutting into live, anesthetized sheep and practicing procedures such as inserting a tube and needle into the animals’ chest cavities and cutting into their throats. After the training session, the animals are killed. The animals are also subjected to the trauma of confinement, shipping, and preparation for surgery.

Effective nonanimal alternatives have been approved for ATLS training by the American College of Surgeons, the body overseeing these courses. Mass General already owns approved nonanimal alternatives, including multiple TraumaMan units. Teaching a typical ATLS class requires only two of these simulators.

More than 95 percent of U.S. facilities that provide ATLS training, including the Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Boston University School of Medicine programs in Boston, use lifelike human patient simulators and other high-tech nonanimal methods.

"Massachusetts General Hospital needs to catch up to the current standard of trauma training," says Dr. Pippin. "Cutting into living animals is a substandard way to teach emergency procedures that will be used on humans. The course instructor already uses simulators to teach the same procedures also taught with live sheep. MGH should use state-of-the-art, nonanimal teaching methods, including human patient simulators, for all such trauma courses."

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:
Tara Failey

John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.
John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.

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