Maine Medical Center Ends Use Of Live Pigs As Part Of Its Emergency Medicine Residency Program

Maine Medical Center (MMC) is ending its controversial use of live animals in its emergency medicine residency program. Based in Portland, Maine, the medical center serves the entire state, as well as northern New England.

Through conversations with leadership at the medical center, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine explained that it learned that the program is abandoning the use of live pigs, opting instead to exclusively use the high-quality, non-animal training methods available in the center’s simulation lab, Hannaford Center for Safety, Innovation and Simulation.

While Maine Medical Center claims that the decision was made “following an annual internal review,” it may also have been significantly influenced by the fact that Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine was planning to file a complaint about the hospital’s practice of using live pigs with the Federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; thus, violating the Animal Welfare Act.

Only a handful of emergency medicine residency programs continue to use animals for training, the vast majority favoring modern, human-based training methods instead of animals because they accurately replicate human anatomy, including layers of life-like skin, fat, and muscle, and allow for repeated practice.

“We are pleased that Maine Medical Center now exclusively employs modern training methods,” Physicians Committee director of academic affairs, John Pippin, MD, FACC said in a statement. “We are hopeful that Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, MMC’s neighbor in New Hampshire, will follow this example.”

Currently, 96% of surveyed emergency medicine residency programs, 259 of 270 in the United States and Canada exclude live animal use for training. Other regional programs at Boston University, Yale-New Haven Medical Center, and Massachusetts General Hospital also use human-relevant methods alone. Instead of animals, human-patient simulators, partial task trainers, and human cadavers are widely used for emergency medicine education.

According to Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, as of May 30th, Maine Medical Center was one of only 12 emergency medicine residency programs in the United States and Canada that used live animals. The others in New England were the Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock/Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

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