Docs to MGH: Please don’t use live animals

A committee of medical experts and grassroots individuals is asking district attorneys to look at the training practices at a pair of hospitals which they claim use live animals in an “archaic and … discredited” method.

In a letter sent to the district attorneys of Suffolk and Hampden counties, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine asked authorities to investigate the practice of using live sheep at Massachusetts General Hospital and live pigs at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield for medical training.

“We believe that [MGH] should be held criminally liable for its cruelty to animals and request that you investigate the live animal component of its ATLS curriculum as soon as possible,” the committee said in the letter, which is signed by three Massachusetts doctors.

The committee said that the sheep are used in the advanced trauma life support course. Medical professionals who sign up for the training make incisions and insert needles into the sheep in violation of the state’s animal cruelty statute, the committee said.

Dr. John Pippin, a senior research and medical adviser for the committee, said the practice of using live animals for training was prominent, but with advances in technology and the use of human body simulators it is outdated.

Jake Wark, a spokesman  for the Suffolk district attorney’s office, said lawyers were reviewing the letter and potentially relevant statutes and case law in other jurisdictions. Animal cruelty statutes in other jurisdictions, he said, do not apply to medical research.

The Facebook group “Help End the Use of Sheep for Trauma Training at Mass General” had garnered 448 members as of late Thursday afternoon.

Messages left for an MGH spokeswoman were not returned by press time.

Live aids

About a dozen accredited medical schools and training programs in the country still use live animals in courses and labs, according to the Humane Society and the committee.


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