Drs. Martin and Barbara Wasserman may both be graduates of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, but loyalty to their alma mater doesn’t trump the Wassermans’ concerns about animal cruelty at the illustrious institution. According to CBS Baltimore, for five years they have been trying to get Hopkins to do away with animal labs, with no success.

Now the Wassermans have filed a complaint with the city prosecutor, saying the pigs’ pain and suffering is unnecessary. They urge the school to use its state-of-the-art technology to teach future surgeons. “The law says an institution for non-research purposes can’t inflict pain unnecessarily on an animal,” Martin Wasserman said. “They have continued to not follow the current statutes.”

What goes on at Johns Hopkins that is so disturbing to the Wassermans and other animal lovers? Here’s a description from the Physicials Committee for Responsible Medicine: “A scalpel slices through a live pig. The chest is cracked open. An instructor shocks and manipulates the heart. The pig is killed.”

Sadly, there is no good reason for this sort of thing to continue. “Training on live animals offers an inferior educational experience. A pig’s anatomy is different from a person’s, and medical students can get a better education using state-of-the-art, human-centered technology,” says John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., senior medical and research adviser at PCRM. Martin Wasserman says, “They have a simulation model that teaches you how to make an incision, how to put your hands inside a body that looks like a human being, and that’s what we’re asking.”

Nonanimal training methods are used by more than 95 percent of U.S. and Canadian medical schools. So why does Johns Hopkins School of Medicine persist in using cruel, outdated training methods?

A 2008 article from Nature hints at one possible answer. It quotes Dr. Jonathan Lissauer, who has trained at Johns Hopkins, who said that sometimes pigs were used “as just a diversion for people who won’t be using those skills at all. I think then you cross the territory from appropriate medical education to something worse than that,” he said. “There was no medical utility in having pigs die so that people going into psychiatry could play around.”

Furthermore, Dr. Lissauer argues that from “a purely academic perspective … there were substantial differences between human tissues and pig tissues — a lot of textural differences — and that the practising wasn’t overly useful because of that.”

So, essentially Johns Hopkins School of Medicine continues to abuse and kill pigs instead of using humane, medically-valid, non-animal alternatives because, well, it wants to. That’s not good enough. Tell Johns Hopkins to stop using live animals in the medical student curriculum.

Photo Credit: PCRM