Pigs Spared Med School Surgeries

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


184100079_51b6915f01_m.jpg NatureNews reports how doctors used to practise surgery on animals before being allowed to work on patients. Nowadays only a handful of US med schools maintain animal labs. The Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Ohio will shut its live-animal lab this month. Next semester, instead of practising on anaesthetized pigs, its med students will use technologies like virtual simulations. It’s all part of a general phase-out of animal labs across the US. In 1994 live-animal experiments were on the curriculum in 77 of 125 medical schools. Now as few as eight use them.

Cost is a factor in the change, since it’s expensive to maintain animals and veterinary staff. But simulations have also developed impressively in the past decade. The most advanced simulators now have ‘haptic feedback,’ providing the sensation that the students’ instruments are touching real tissue—advances that make the use of live animals gratuitous, according to John Pippin, a cardiologist in Dallas who once used live dogs to study heart attacks but now works for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The group continues its work to convince the 6% of US institutes that still use live animals to change their ways—notably the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. NatureNews reports that Jonathan Lissauer, a doctor recently trained at Johns Hopkins, says that sometimes animal surgeries were used “as just a diversion for people who won’t be using those skills at all. I think then you cross the territory from appropriate medical education to something worse than that. There was no medical utility in having pigs die so that people going into psychiatry could play around.”

why_animals_matter_medium_rwcz.jpg According to Erin Williams and Margo DeMello in their compelling treatise on how animals suffer in institutional settings, Why Animals Matter: The Case for Animal Protection, the switch from live-animal experiments to simulations was driven in large part because “medical students around the country expressed reservations about killing animals as part of their education, and many refused to participate in dog labs and other classes in which animals were killed…” Could this be a way to identify the compassionate docs from the not so compassionate?

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones’ environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate