Each year in the U.S. some 20 million animals are killed for use in biology, psychology and medical training classes and experiments.
Although sophisticated computer software programs are on the market, which includes lifelike human simulators, there are many places around the world where medical education professionals continue to rely on animals to teach students how to perform various medical procedures since they can’t afford the costly new technologies.
Hoping to save thousands of animal lives each year, the animal welfare group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals announced earlier this month it had purchased 64 state-of-the-art TraumaMan surgical simulators and donated them to medical training programs in nine countries that were unable to afford them: Bolivia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Mexico, Mongolia, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago.
At $24,000 a piece, these simulators replicate the anatomy and physiology of a real human torso, including realistic layers of skin and tissue, ribs and internal organs.
PETA said it decided to donate the simulators since “Until now, limited budgets have prevented [medical] programs [in these nine countries] from teaching Advanced Trauma Life Support courses with the same modern simulation equipment that’s standard in the U.S. and many other nations.”
Due to financial constraints in these countries, PETA said “trainees at dozens of hospitals and universities were required to cut holes into the chests, throats, abdomens, and limbs of thousands of live dogs, goats, pigs, and sheep.” But now, thanks to the technology, medical students will be able to “repeat difficult procedures until mastered,” while the technology also have been shown “to teach lifesaving procedures better than cutting into animals does.”
Though not every medical trainee in the U.S. is taught using a simulator, 98 percent of the trauma medicine courses in the U.S. that are offered by the American College of Surgeons use surgical simulators instead of animals, which is likely why PETA didn’t donate any simulators to programs in the U.S.
According to PETA, animals such as dogs, pigs, sheep, and goats are used in some emergency medical training courses at universities and hospitals around the world, and students are required to cut holes into their throats and chests and stab needles into their hearts.
“In a dwindling number of pediatrics programs, cats and ferrets have hard tubes repeatedly forced down their delicate throats for intubation training,” PETA said, while “Other courses have trainees practice using surgical tools and other medical devices by cutting into live animals.”
Justin Goodman, an official at PETA, said that surveys have repeatedly found that medical students don’t like hurting the animals and that most preferred the use of a simulator.
Knowing this, PETA asked Simulab Corporation, the maker of the TraumaMan, to make a cheaper version of its popular simulator that lesser-privileged medical programs throughout the world could afford.
Simulab reportedly agreed to cut the price of the mannequins by about half for PETA, and agreed to sell replacement skins for about $30 instead of the usual $100. PETA picked up the rest of the tab with the help of the McGrath Family Foundation of San Diego, donations from members and PETA Germany.
Although Simulab’s cheaper version of the TraumaMan does not exude fake blood from the skin and has lungs powered by a foot pedal instead of an electric pump, PETA says that the mannequins are a humane teaching tool that better represents human patients than animals and can save thousands of animal lives each year.
While PETA recognizes there was a time when the use of animals in the classroom was largely unchallenged, the group says “today’s students are ready, willing, and able to stand up for animals and work with PETA to use non-animal methods that are more humane and effective.
“As we’ve said before, moving science and medicine away from archaic animal use benefits doctors, their patients, and animals,” the group said. “And this program is a case in point.”