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Stony Brook University, Saint Louis University End Animal Labs After Bar Association, PCRM Letters

Two more medical schools have stopped using live animal labs in medical education. Stony Brook University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine in New York and Saint Louis University School of Medicine join eight others that have stopped using live animals labs in medical student curricula since the beginning of 2006.

surgeryStony Brook University announced in early August that fourth-year medical students will no longer observe a surgical training course involving live pigs at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola. The cancellation announcement came after the Association of the Bar of the City of New York sent letters to the school criticizing the practice.

A USDA inspection report in March cited Winthrop-University Hospital for noncompliance with the Animal Welfare Act for not providing proof that it looked for alternatives to the use of live animals. In June, New York bar association sent letters to the school's dean, Richard Fine. The bar association’s letters urged the school to discontinue the use of live animals in its surgery laboratory “on legal, scientific, and ethical grounds.”

The surgical course used anesthetized pigs to teach skills in laparoscopic surgery, which involves making small incisions in the abdomen to repair internal injuries or remove tissue. After the class, the pigs were killed. Student surgeons can learn laparoscopic surgery more effectively with modern non-animal teaching methods, as PCRM member Deborah Wilson, M.D., a highly successful laparoscopic surgeon, explained in a letter published in Newsday.

Saint Louis University School of Medicine also recently announced its live animal lab cancellation in response to a letter, this time from PCRM. In a letter sent April 25 to the school's dean, Patricia L. Monteleone, M.D., PCRM called attention to a resolution passed by the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) in March. AMSA amended its official position regarding alternatives to animal laboratories from a statement that the organization “urges that alternative educational materials, such as films, videotapes and computer simulations be provided for students who do not choose to attend these classes and labs (1986)” to “AMSA strongly encourages the replacement of animal laboratories with non-animal alternatives in undergraduate medical education.” In response to PCRM’s letter, the school announced the end of its second-year cardiovascular physiology elective using live pigs as of August 15.

These announcements bring the total number of allopathic medical schools that still use live animals to teach basic concepts in human physiology, pharmacology, or surgery to 11.

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