Baylor College of Medicine Kills Pigs for Paramedic Training. Doctors Call Foul.

After being unable to identify any legitimate reason as to why Baylor College of Medicine is suturing live pigs during paramedics' training and then killing them, a group of concerned doctors is filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, asking that the feds immediately halt Baylor's use of pigs during the training.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine intends to file the complaint on Thursday with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. In the complaint, Texas doctors allege that Baylor's paramedic training program violates the Animal Welfare Act since other alternatives to live pigs clearly exist, and therefore use of the live animals is not "unavoidable," as the Act requires.

According to the complaint, Baylor's training program, which is offered to the Montgomery County Hospital District, is the only program in the state using live animals out of 46 other programs, according to a survey the committee conducted. At Baylor, paramedics learn to cut into the pig's throat in order to insert a breathing tube, cut into the pig's ribs to insert a gloved finger into the chest cavity, and induce bleeding in order to learn how to control hemorrhaging, among other things.

One Montgomery County Hospital District EMS training document dated September 19 indicated that one pig died before the procedure was even over.

"Regardless of whether the pigs suffer a lot of pain during this training, they're rounded up and kept in the facility in confinement and have to be restrained for the anesthesia, and then they never wake up," said Dr. John Pippin, director of academic affairs for the committee and a doctor in Dallas. "It's a very sad process for the pigs, even if the faculty is successful in keeping them from having pain during the procedures."

Pippin called the idea that the pigs would best teach paramedics about anatomy and how to properly treat trauma injuries "absurd," given much more effective methods exist, he said. It has been well over a decade since most hospital training programs transitioned to non-animal training procedures, preferring simulation on a high-tech device called TraumaMan, a lifelike human model, or on cadavers., according to the complaint.

The complaint even cites a 2014 U.S. Air Force report, in which a major writes, “We have entered into an age where artificial simulator models are at least equivalent to, if not superior to, animal models.”

But since Baylor College of Medicine already has a state-of-the-art simulation center, which Pippin said does in fact include the TraumaMan, Pippin said the committee can't identify any reason why Baylor continues to kill piggies for training. According to a "proposed curriculum" document the Physicians Committee obtained from Montgomery County Hospital District, even medical professionals at the hospital district originally recommended that its paramedic trainees learn the procedures on cadavers or simulators to provide them the "most life-like experience" and an "understanding of human anatomy."

"Baylor is a very prestigious university, but so is Texas A&M, and their programs use simulation. The entire Houston Community College system uses simulation. What are they thinking at Baylor that they need to use live pigs?" Pippin said. "Even if we forget about all the ethical issues, the fact reamins that [simulators and cadavers] offer better training. When an emergency comes, why would you want them to have learned on a pig?"

A media representative from Baylor College of Medicine did not provide comment by press time; we will update this story if she does.

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Meagan Flynn is a staff writer at the Houston Press who, despite covering criminal justice and other political squabbles in Harris County, drinks only one small cup of coffee per day.
Contact: Meagan Flynn