CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A complaint has been filed with the United States Department of Agriculture asking them to investigate the use of live animals for training at the Medical University of South Carolina. The complaint states MUSC’s practices go against the Animal Welfare Act.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is the group that filed the official complaint against MUSC stating there are other methods that can be used instead of animals.
Through a Freedom of Information request, the group found out MUSC was using up to 200 pigs every three years in two ways. One of which is to train their residents to do surgery procedures and the other is to use for trainees, with unanesthetized pigs to learn how to control the animals.
They conduct both open surgeries and laparoscopic surgeries,” Dr. John Pippin, with the Physicians Committee, said. “They do a variety of procedures on virtually every organ system.”
Pippin stated there are other methods available to use instead of the animals.
“We are seeking win-win solutions to situations where animals are being used for training or practice or education or other purposes to their detriment and there are alternative or replacement methods,” Pippin said.
Pippin stated the Animal Welfare Act requires programs using animals to justify that animal use.
“It has to do with an obligation to seek alternatives to animal use to make sure that any animal use that happens is unavoidable,” Pippin said.
MUSC sent a statement regarding the complaint:
MUSC is committed to training the most highly skilled and well-prepared physicians and other health care professionals to serve patients across our state, region and beyond. To achieve this goal, we employ a variety of proven training regimens, including simulators, simulation systems and in vivo procedures. Our professors and clinicians will continue to employ the most advanced technology available in tandem with practical, experiential learning to ensure that our professionals possess the knowledge and skill to engage successfully in the complex, real-world situations that demand discerning judgment and proficient techniques. We are committed to the highest ethical standards in the responsible use of animals in the instances they are used for surgical training.
While simulated models should be used in surgical training whenever possible, there is still is a fundamental difference between a robot and a living creature when it comes to training medical professionals to perform complex, high-risk, lifesaving surgical procedures. Resident physicians who perform surgeries on live animals as part of their training report profound reactions to and respect for their subjects as well as deep appreciation for their role in helping them learn to perfect their skills. They also report feeling more prepared to perform complex, high-risk surgery after training with live animal models than they did after training with simulators.
But Pippin said the alternative methods react the same.
“Our primary focus is in convincing MUSC that they can train their residents just as well without using animals,” Pippin said.
MUSC has been notified of the complaint and now the USDA will do an inspection. If there is a violation found, MUSC could be fined at least $10,000 per violation.