(ANIMAL WELFARE) CANADA — Canada has once again been a leader in progressive thinking, putting an end to using live animals for medical courses. Read on for different perspectives from students and doctors, and the new teaching methods being practiced. Let’s hope this will spark a change the rest of the world will take part in! — Global Animal
Tom Blackwell, National Post
Another two Canadian universities have agreed to stop using live animals in trauma-medicine training courses, marking the end of the practice completely in this country, according to the doctor-led animal-rights group that has lobbied for the controversial change.
Doctors and other trauma trainees at Quebec’s University of Sherbrooke and Sacré Coeur hospital in Montreal have begun practising on human-like, computerized simulators instead of pigs or dogs.
It means none of the 22 Canadian universities and hospitals that offer the Advanced Trauma Life Support program uses animals any longer, said Dr. John Pippin, a spokesman for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C. Last year, the use of animals in medical-school training also came to a close in Canada, he said.
“We’re confident that now Canada, bless them, is leading the way,” said Dr. Pippin.
The committee advocates vegetarian or vegan diets, more ethical human research and an end to the use of animals in medical study and education. Though it has some ties with the controversial People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the group tends to couch its arguments in terms of good health and science, rather than simply what is good for animals.
The changes to the trauma courses have been controversial, though. McMaster University in Hamilton made the switch last year, complaining that many of the students felt the simulators were a lesser option, and that the new policy came only after “threats” from the American organization.
The university’s veterinarian also noted that the conditions under which pigs had been treated – including being anesthetized while trainees operated on them and killed before regaining consciousness – were far more humane that those of hogs slaughtered for meat.
The University of Sherbrooke did come under pressure from the committee to abandon use of animals in training, but ultimately made the decision as part of a broader move to employing simulators, said Dr. Pierre Cossette, dean of Sherbrooke’s medical school.
“It’s the best way, educationally speaking, to do that type of teaching and learning,” he said. “For us, it was a no-brainer … The fact it helped save some animals was a good thing on top of that.”
Not only do the simulators – sophisticated dummies connected to a computer – mimic human anatomy, but they provide electronic feedback to trainees on the impact of their work, Dr. Cossette said.
A handful of studies that surveyed small numbers of trainees have suggested that simulators are at least a good alternative to live animals. A U.S. Air Force study published this year, though, found a slight advantage for medical trainees who had learned two emergency procedures on pigs, rather than simulators.
The committee is setting its sights on a goal that is exponentially more controversial: ending use of animals in medical research entirely. But Dr. Cossette, the Sherbrooke dean, rejected the idea, saying medical advances are simply not possible without animals.
“We cannot do magical thinking about this,” he said.
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