Appendix 26 - Animals

by Michael Greger, MD and United Progressive Alumni

[ Medical School Resources | Appendices | Discussion ]

From my Review of General Psychiatry: "If we accept the hypothesis that subhuman animals feel pain...." That was written less than five years ago.

Med school can be a real killer... - Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine campaign poster picturing lovable mutt urging students to, "save your first patient."[308]

The use and abuse of nonhuman animals has not changed much. In 1994, seventy-seven U.S. medical schools (62%) used live animals for their physiology courses, their surgical internships and/or their pharmacology courses. The animals most often used are dogs.[309]

In an article called "From Apprehension to Fascination with 'Dog Lab,'" medical student attitudes about using animals were studied:

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of students could not imagine using their own pets for dissection.... As one student noted, 'I thought about not going just because it was a dog, and I love dogs and I didn't want to kill a dog....' One student remarked, 'I think it would be easier if I didn't have one of the types of dogs I have been closest with - if I didn't have a Springer Spaniel or a Lab or whatever. If I had a poodle, it would probably be easier since I hate poodles.'

The article concludes:

Medical students morally absolve themselves for their use and killing of animals in dog lab both by denying their responsibility for these acts and their wrongfulness.... Although dog lab is but a brief experience in the students' larger medical education, it can serve as a powerful reminder that technical skills can be sharpened only by quelling or suspending moral doubts.

I am reminded of that every day.

From "Struggling to Stay Human in Medicine":

Medical school catalogs don't list courses in elementary dissociation, but we learn it all the same. From the first day when we touched and the sliced into a cadaver we were learning. In our sophomore year when we bludgeoned rabbits with crowbars and took out their beating hearts, we were learning. I've forgotten which principle that experiment was supposed to illustrate, but I did learn - as I would many times - that by separating my feelings from my thoughts I could do something very abhorrent to me.[310]

Dog lab:

As one student commented, 'this was really neat - digging in and seeing the stuff actually working and pumping - it was great.' Similarly, another student remarked, 'I was amazed at how long the heart kept beating after we'd opened up the chest - just the power of life to keep pushing on - I was really amazed.'.... Another student said, 'it was really cool to hold the heart. It was incredible to hold a beating heart. It was great.'[311]

From "Practicing What We Preach?" published in the American Journal of Medicine:

In biology you maim and kill in order to learn. Perhaps much of it is unavoidable. But what happens when medical students are trained first as biological scientists and only secondarily, almost as an afterthought, as physician? How easy it is for them to discard their point of view when they finally reach out to take a human pulse?[312]

Brown Dog Riots

February 1998, the 95th anniversary of the Brown Dog Riots. Rioting medical students(!) so out of control that the British Cabinet considered extending the anti-terrorist laws directed at the IRA against them. The throngs of medical students were threatening to destroy a commemorative water fountain with the statue of a dog and a plaque that read, "Men and Women of England, how long shall these things be?" The memorial was erected as an enduring form of public protest against the medical establishment's use of stray dogs in surgical demonstrations for medical students. Financially strained by protecting the fountain with over 1100 peace officers at various times, the city council removed the memorial in 1910; three thousand antivivisectionists mourned in Trafalgar Square.[313] And I thought medical students were apathetic.


[308] Drone, J. Good Medicine 8(1999):6.

[309] Ammons, SW. Academic Medicine 70(1995):740-743.

[310] Reiser, DE. "Struggling to Stay Human in Medicine." New Physician 1973(May):295-299.

[311] Arluke, A and F Hafferty. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 25(1996):201-225.

[312] Stern, DT. "Practicing What We Preach?" American Journal of Medicine 104(1998):569-575.

[313] Animal People 7(1):10.

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