As a cardiologist and senior medical adviser with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, I want to refute incorrect statements quoted in your article (‘U’ under pressure for dog testing, 01/14/2009) and clarify why PCRM opposes the University’s use of live dogs from Michigan animal shelters in lethal trauma training classes.

The University Health Service falsely claims that the majority of Advanced Trauma Life Support courses use animals. In truth, however, the University of Michigan is one of the last institutions in the country continuing this outdated practice. In an ongoing nationwide survey of ATLS courses, it was found that over 90 percent of researchers exclusively use non-animal methods, such as cadavers or human patient simulators. In fact, the American College of Surgeons, which accredits all ATLS programs, endorses the use of simulators.

We oppose the use of dogs and other animals in ATLS courses not only because it is inhumane but also because it is not the best way to teach participants how to treat acute trauma injuries. The procedures taught in the University’s ATLS course include cutting into the airway, inserting chest tubes, and sticking needles in the lungs, heart and abdomen. The anatomy is so different in dogs that the techniques must be revisited later — when human lives may be on the line.

The University’s students deserve the most advanced training methods available. That means immediately replacing the use of live dogs with superior, human-based methods.

John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C.
The letter-writer is a senior medical and research adviser with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

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