The University of Missouri says it will continue to use live pigs to train emergency room doctors, despite protests involving national and local advocates.
Last week, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine organized a rally outside University Hospital to advocate ending the use of swine in physician training. The demonstration was organized after the university's Animal Care and Use Committee voted earlier this month to continue the practice through November 2020, The Columbia Daily Tribune reports .
Kerry Foley, a retired emergency physician for 26 years, said Missouri is the only one of five emergency residency programs in the state that still uses pigs. A survey conducted by the physicians committee found only 16 of 211 emergency residency programs in the U.S. and Canada use pigs to train doctors.
"They were used originally because the technology wasn't available and now the technology is available," Foley said as she picketed outside the hospital. "You can now obtain things called perfused cadavers, which are very lifelike and true to the experience of working on real patients."
In a statement to the Tribune, Missouri officials said live pigs were an important supplement to training in simulation labs.
"Our goal at the University of Missouri is to provide our emergency medicine resident physicians the skills and procedural knowledge necessary to save the lives of our patients," spokeswoman Jennifer Coffman wrote, adding it isn't possible to complete training only with simulations.
The protocol used by the university says the eight residents accepted each year for the three-year program need six pigs for every six-month session to complete the training. Each pig is anesthetized before training begins and then subjected to eight procedures, which include opening the chest to reach the heart and cutting an airway into the throat. Multiple residents perform procedures on the same animals, the 2015 protocol states.
But Foley said none of the training requires a pig. She said it would be more helpful for students to learn on clinical anatomy models.