A national doctors’ advocacy organization has filed a federal complaint against a Minnesota hospital over its use of live animals for medical training.
Over a three-year period, Hennepin County Medical Center used 450 sheep and 450 rabbits for 20 training procedures.
In its complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine alleges that the sheep and rabbits are no longer needed for emergency medical training because of advances in simulated surgical methods and high-tech mannequins. The complaint also says the Hennepin County Medical Center has the resources to perform procedures without live animals and that it provided outdated statistics to justify their continued use.
The group alleges that the hospital’s practice violates the Animal Welfare Act, the Star Tribune reported.
Hennepin County Medical Center said in a statement issued Thursday that it has reduced its use of live animals and has plans to eliminate the practice. But it argues that that there are a few critical lifesaving procedures that can only be effectively taught with animals.
“We support the judicious use of animals in education in the interest of human health and animal welfare. We insist on the humane and ethical treatment of animals,” the hospital’s statement said.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s survey of 135 hospitals found that only 19, including Hennepin County Medical Center, use live animals in teaching doctors. Hennepin County Medical Center is the only hospital in Minnesota that uses live animals for emergency medical training, according to the physicians group.
Over a three-year period, Hennepin County Medical Center used 450 sheep and 450 rabbits for 20 training procedures, including drilling holes in skulls to relieve pressure, fluid removal from vital organs and inserting breathing tubes, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine said.