Within the not too distant past, thousands, if not millions, of poor pound dogs were used mercilessly for surgery practice by teaching hospitals nationwide. Fortunately, an organization I've long admired, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), emerged to do something about it. Dr. Neal Barnard and the PCRM worked tirelessly to shut down the cruel dog labs without compromising teaching techniques. I believe they succeeded.
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Shelter dogs were once easily available to teaching hospitals by virtue of "pound seizure"--a law that I believe is now outlawed in almost all states. It was standard procedure in the dog labs to perform countless surgeries, one after another, on a dog--maybe one you surrendered to a shelter-- until it was spent and no longer useful for practice. Only then was the dog put down.
One surgery for me in 1993 was one too many. Can you imagine how these poor dogs must have suffered?
Thank God for PCRM. They began a crusade to "teach" the teaching hospitals and their research doctors that simulated mannequins were just as good as live animals for learning purposes. In fact better.
But Now a New Challenge
At present, however, yet another animal is being victimized. In a PCRM letter I received just recently, I learned that, in at least four medical centers, a horrible and bloody procedure is now needlessly and cruelly being inflicted on pigs.
The practice is unnecessary, because, according to PCRM, the Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) teaching involved is already provided at more than 200 universities and medical centers across the country. And they note: "More than 98 percent of them DO NOT use live animals because human simulators are proven to be more effective."
The four medical centers that still have not understood this, and have also failed to realize that pigs are nothing like humans, are Hartford Hospital, North Dakota State University, University of Texas Medical Branch, and Baystate Medical Center. All of them have refused to stop killing defenseless pigs in their training procedures.
The writer of the PCRM post warns us that we may not want to read what happens to these poor helpless pigs during the teaching protocol. I couldn't help thinking: Here's someone trying to spare us from an experience that is not even remotely as painful as what the pigs themselves suffer. But I did read on:
"After enduring the trauma of confinement, shipping, and manipulation, a pig is then cut between her ribs, and a tube is forced into her chest cavity. Then a needle is pierced into her abdomen, and another needle stabbed under her breastbone near her heart. Only then the pig is killed right before her throat is sliced."
Just terrible. I didn't read anything about her being anesthetized--so you can well imagine how terribly painful the procedure was for this pig and for all the others so cruelly used. I think people who undergo surgery, and are either not completely sedated in the first, or experience a wearing down of the anesthetic, can well relate to the pig's suffering.
And, of course, the saddest thing of all is that, even though the PCRM has made it abundantly clear that human simulators are better and more effective teaching tools than live animals, some teaching hospitals continue to use cruel invasive procedures on innocent pigs. Why?
If these practices were happening in the Middle Ages, or were based on Descartes's arrogant notion that dogs [read all animals] are non-thinking, non-feeling automatons, then I could understand. But, here we are, in the 21st century, and we are still brutalizing poor pigs in the name of medicine. I think this is unconscionable. What about you?
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