Members of the Michigan Student Assembly passed a resolution at their meeting last night urging officials to replace live animals with simulators in the University of Michigan Health System’s Survival Flight Course.
The Survival Flight Course has come under criticism lately for its use of live animals in the training process for flight nurses. The most contentious aspect of the training course involves the use cats and pigs for practicing medical procedures, including intubating.
In September, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture against the Health System claiming that using live animals for this type of training and then euthanizing them afterward is illegal. In addition, PETA representatives said human simulators are more effective training tools than animals.
Within the University, the student organization Michigan Animals Rights Society has also protested the Survival Flight Course, advocating for the rights of the animals used in the class.
Public Policy junior Joseph Varilone, a member of MARS, addressed the members of MSA last night about the assembly’s need to urge the University to change current policies that allow for the use of live animals. Instead, Varilone said the University should use simulators in the Survival Flight Course.
“The University has currently defended the practice and they haven’t really addressed the objections such as why the American Heart Association and other … associations don’t support the use of animals,” Varilone said.
In an October statement from the Office of the Vice President for Research, University officials stated that the point of using live animals in the course is to prepare nurses for treating future patients.
“Survival Flight nurses respond to accident and injury scenes and travel to other hospitals to resuscitate critically ill and injured people,” the statement reads. “They must be able to perform life-saving procedures promptly and skillfully.”
According to the statement, the nurses trained in the survival course perform the same procedures as practicing doctors and veterinarians.
“The procedures used on the animals during training are the same as ones that are performed on human patients, such as inserting a breathing tube or accessing blood vessels and body cavities for life support and other therapeutic purposes,” the statement reads.
The USDA came to the University early last month to investigate the use of live animals in the course, but according to the statement, they found no citations.
Felix Lopez and John Oltean, two LSA representatives on MSA, authored the resolution passed at last night’s meeting.
“I felt like if there’s an alternative to (using live animals) that it should be taken,” Lopez said in an interview following last night’s meeting.
Lopez said that as a leading institution, the University should change its policy regarding the use of live animals in the Survival Flight Course, and should instead use simulation technology.
“… There have already been classes similar to Survival Flight Course where they are using simulators,” Lopez said.
Lopez said it is important that the general student body become more active in supporting the cause to move away from using live animals in the class to encourage the University to make changes.
Though MSA voted to support the resolution, some representatives like LSA senior Gabriel Suprise, MSA’s former student general counsel, said the use of animals in the course is justified because students need to train on a subject that’s anatomically similar to a person.