Human Exceptionalism

Should Pigs Be Used to Teach Surgical Techniques?

There is a protest in Hartford about a teaching hospital educating their surgical students by having them work on live, anesthetized pigs, who have been injured to mimic gun shot and knife wounds, etc. Animal rights activists are in high dudgeon, calling it cruel and demanding that the students use human cadavers instead. But I don’t think they are right. From the story:

Dr. Lenworth Jacobs, director of the trauma program at Hartford Hospital who created the course in 1998, outlined the benefits of the training last year during an interview for a story posted on the University of Connecticut website.

Few doctors outside urban areas see the devastating effects of violent trauma, “but when they see it, they have to be able to handle it,” Jacobs is quoted as saying. “By working on a standardized mode in a standardized operating room, students get the same experience they would get in a real operating room with a real patient.”

That makes eminent sense to me. Surgery isn’t just about the the place of organs or learning how to properly excise tumors, but also the environment of a living patient who bleeds and breathes. This is part of the surgical milieu. I want a surgeons to have been exposed to this difficult aspect of operations before attempting human surgery.

If there is another way to obtain the same educational benefit for the students, by all means it should be used instead. But if not, and given that the pigs are fully anesthetized, then heeding the animal liberationists would be to interfere with proper learning.

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