Pigs Used for Human Trauma Training

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is urging North Dakota State and Sanford Health to end human trauma training on animals. They have placed ceiling advertisements in 31 MAT buses to remind the public that North Dakota State is a part of the less than 1 percent of Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) programs that still uses animals. These advertisements will continue for four weeks featuring an image of a bloody scalpel. 

The Physicians Committee collected a petition of 265 physician signatures. They submitted this petition to NDSU President Dean L. Bresciani and Nate White, the chief operating officer and executive vice president at Sanford Fargo.  

Dr. John Pippin, the director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee, said that the main reason for their wanting a change is not solely for the protection of the animals, but more so for the quality of training in the ATLS program. 

“We have tried contacting NDSU before and they just send us a boiler plate comment,” Pippin said. “No one has been able to get them to stop nor has anyone been able to get them to explain why they use the pigs.”

Pippin stated that the other two programs in the state are already doing it “the right way” and the 307 programs in the nation are also doing it without the use of animals. He said students have to relearn many of the tactics when transitioning from pigs to humans. 

“Just for the anatomy reason, you’ve got to learn it all over again working on a person,” Pippin said. “Pigs are so bad that even the U.S. military sent a memo to all services stating they will no longer use animals, they will use human-modeled methods. They are convinced this is the best way to save lives.” 

In the NDSU-Sanford Health ATLS course, the student training sessions involve inserting needles into a live pig’s chest cavity, abdomen and the sac surrounding the heart. After this, the animal is killed and the participants make an incision in the animal’s throat to put in a breathing tube.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine hopes that whether you care more about the animal issue or the training quality issue, that college students will give North Dakota State their opinion.  

“We are not asking to save pigs at the risk of people,” Pippin said. “The training is not correct. Pigs are not people. We as a public deserve better training for the people who are going to save our lives in trauma situations.”

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