Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tell JHU to stop torturing pigs.

At Johns Hopkins University, medical students are taught basic surgical skills on live pigs. This training involves making incisions in a pig’s abdomen and then inserting long, thin tubes with lighted cameras known as endoscopes and surgical instruments into the animal. Then the pig's heart is stopped and re-started for demonstration purposes, using electric shocks. After all this, the pig is killed.

Johns Hopkins is one of only two medical schools in the United States and Canada that still uses live animals to teach surgical skills. The remaining 99 percent of programs use nonanimal methods, including human-based medical simulation.

These simulators include an array of widely available laparoscopic surgery simulators and partial task trainers. In fact, Johns Hopkins even owns these simulators in its state-of-the-art Johns Hopkins Medicine Simulation Center. Johns Hopkins’s neighboring institution, the University of Maryland School of Medicine, exclusively uses nonanimal training methods in partnership with its simulation center to teach medical students the same skills.

Despite the availability of these human-based nonanimal methods, Johns Hopkins refuses to provide their medical students with the best, human-based training available.

Please take action and tell Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s vice dean of education Roy Ziegelstein, M.D., M.A.C.P. that Baltimore deserves better.

Take action at

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a resident at Hopkins, and have taken part in the pig labs that you write about. I have performed numerous operations in pigs - repairing injuries, sewing bowel and blood vessels. Among other things, I learned how to perform a cricothyroidotomy - using a scalpel to cut into a patient's (or pig's) airway, which is life saving if the upper airway is injured or obstructed. This life saving procedure is, fortunately, not needed very often by live patients. It's also an emergency procedure - when a patient can't breathe, there's no time for an experienced surgeon to be teaching a less experienced trainee how to do it.

A couple months after I learned how to perform this procedure on a pig, I was called upon to do the same procedure in a human patient - she had so much upper airway swelling that she could not breathe and several anesthesiologists had been unable to pass a breathing tube down her throat past the swelling. When I arrived in the patient's ICU room, there was a crowd of anesthesiologists and nurses gathered around the bed, watching helplessly as the unconscious patient was unable to breathe - people typically die within a minute or two when they are unable to breathe, and this patient's clock was ticking. Thanks to my experience in the pig lab, I was able to quickly and adeptly perform a cricothyroidotomy, saving this patient's life.

Hopkins is one of a very few medical institutions that continues to use pigs for training. This isn't because using pigs for training is bad, it's because it's expensive. Our best simulation technology is nowhere close to capturing the feel of live tissues. Hopkins' pig lab is a sign of the hospital's commitment to excellence.

Ending the pig labs will mean that doctors are less well trained, especially for rare and emergent procedures that are rarely seen in humans but have little room for error. No pig lab will mean worse outcomes for patients. Please remember this if you know anybody who has been a patient or might be a patient in the future.