‘Archaic and unnecessary’: Petition challenges UC’s use of live animals in medical training | News

University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Nearly 14,000 signers are petitioning the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine to stop using live animals for surgical training. A petition started by Dr. Angie Eakin encourages the university to stop using live pigs for general surgery training, a medical practice that spokesperson MB Reilly confirmed in a statement.

“For specialized, advanced surgical training, the college deeply appreciates the use of donated cadavers, inanimate materials, and a limited number of pigs annually,” said Reilly. “The latter receive continuous care and monitoring, including anesthesia, to prevent pain and distress.”

The petition urges UC to transition from training surgeons on animals to using more accurate simulators.

“Animal-based medical training is on its way out and for good reason,” said Dr. John Pippin, director of academic affairs with the Physicians Committee. “The modern training methods used across the country benefit future patients and doctors alike, allowing for repeat practice, an anatomical configuration that replicates that of a human, and more.”

According to Eakin, about 76% of universities, hospitals and residency programs train using these lifelike medical simulators rather than live pigs that UC currently has in its residency program. Her message is to urge UC that it can train highly effective surgeons with non-animal models, and those models may indeed be superior to animal models.

“The Physicians Committee advocates for higher standards in medical education and research, which is one reason why we started with a petition at the University of Cincinnati: To help bring their surgery residency training into the 21stcentury.”

Eakin believes that the high number of signatures on her petition is important, as it speaks to the community’s opinion on the issue.

“I think it’s significant because it speaks to the fact that there are lots of people from all different types of backgrounds, both professionally and personal backgrounds, who feel that this sort of practice for trading is not necessary anymore. And in fact, we may have superior methods rather than using animals,” said Eakin. “We want to have the best training for the doctors of the future and also for the patients.”

Eakin is a doctor based in Columbus, Ohio, working as a telehealth physician at Forwardhealth. She is also an active member of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which collaborated with Eakin to petition UC’s surgical training practices.

“[The petition] was a part of the larger movement from the Physicians Committee. They do similar petitions across the country at different medical training programs,” said Eakin. “Since I’m local here, they asked me to help out for the specific purpose.”

Other than her residence in Columbus, Eakin has no connection to UC or its College of Medicine. She found out about the practices of UC through her membership of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which tracks medical training standards across the country.

While this petition by the committee has gained significant traction, this was not the organization’s first knowledge of the training practices using live animals. The group published an article in 2021 where, according to a press release, it was “obligated to report this information to the USDA and to request that they order correction and the appropriate penalties.”

A US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service investigation followed the report in May 2021 for UC allegedly violating the Animal Welfare Act by not considering alternatives to procedures that may cause animals pain or distress.

Following this most recent petition and the events of last year, Reilly released an identical statement on behalf of the university.

“All methods are designed to train our region’s highly-skilled, well-prepared surgeons in the most advanced, complex, real-world needs, procedures, and techniques, and our surgical training methods are endorsed by our college education faculty and the American College of Surgeons,” said Reilly. “Moreover, our surgical education fully complies with all federal laws, regulations, and guidelines, to which we add institutional oversight.”

Eakin’s message to the Dean of the UC College of Medicine, Andrew T. Filak, and other administrators in a position to update the use of live pigs in residency training practices is “to bring this medical training to the standards of many other highly regarded surgical training programs.”

Comments from signers of Eakin’s petition echo her sentiment.

“I am shocked that UC still allows this archaic and unnecessary training method,” said Sheree Sellick, a supporter of the petition. “Animals are sentient individuals, not things, to be used and discarded.”

“Universities should be leaders, they should not be operating as if they were still in the Dark Ages,” said Corinne Wolpe, another supporter of Eakin’s petition. “Using animals to train surgeons is no longer acceptable.”


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