The University of South Carolina’s medical school has agreed to stop using live pigs in its emergency medicine program following a complaint by an animal rights group.
“Continued advances in simulation technology make it possible for us to make this change at this time,” USC’s School of Medicine and its partner Palmetto Health said in a statement. “In doing so, we affirm our belief that preparing health care providers for the preservation of human life is our greatest responsibility and we are confident that this change will not adversely affect the quality of our training programs.” Students in the program train at Palmetto Health’s Richland facility in Columbia.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) had filed a complaint in July with the U.S. Department of Agriculture over USC’s emergency medicine training for graduate students. The group says the Columbia school has its students cut into live pigs to insert tubes, access the heart and perform various cardiac procedures. If the animals survive these procedures, they are killed before the final procedures are taught.
PCRM director for academic affairs John Pippin said federal regulations under the Animal Welfare Act require that instructors consider alternatives whenever its procedures would cause pain to animals for research purposes. He said the School of Medicine’s dean Les Hall spoke with him before USC made the decision.
“They have stopped to take an objective look at an important issue in education,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “And they’ve made a good decision. I think the taxpayers of South Carolina and those who support the university and medical school should be happy about that.”
Pippin said his organization withdrew its complaint Tuesday in response to the school’s decision. The School of Medicine was the last medical school in South Carolina to use live pigs. The Medical University of South Carolina and USC’s medical campus in Greenville already use simulators.