National Physicians Group Critical of SIU School of Medicine's Use of Live Pigs

Jul 11, 2013

A national physicians group is asking the US Department of Agriculture to look into plans by the SIU School of Medicine to use live pigs in training doctors.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine rasised its concerns in a recent letter to SIU School of Medicine Dean Dr. Kevin Dorsey.

Doctor John Pippin with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says the use of the pigs violates the Animal Welfare Act, and the group wants an investigation into SIU's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, which approved the plan: "This was a slap–dash protocol that apparently was just rubber–stamped by the Animal Care and Use Committee. They need to take their responsibility to enforce the Animal Welfare Act seriously, and they did not and that's why we're asking that they be investigated."

Pippin says he doesn't understand why the decision was made, and disagrees with it: "98% of trauma programs don't use animals. 98% of pediatrics residency programs don't use animals. 97% of U.S. medical schools don't train their students with animals."

Under the plan, residents in the Emergency Medicine program would use the pigs to train for several different procedures. Pippin says simulators and cadavers are better tools for training doctors, and the use of animals has nearly been phased out across the country.

SIU School of Medicine Spokeswoman Karen Carlson says the school uses lots of different approaches to train future doctors. In a statement, Carlson says simulations are used, but also points out using live tissue prepares the residents for real–world situations. Carlson also says SIU is always evaluating training methods, and that animals used are treated humanely and with respect at all times.