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March 21, 2012 at 12:16 PM

UW medical school stops using ferrets in training

The University of Washington School of Medicine has discontinued the practice of using live ferrets to train medical students in emergency procedures on babies and children.

The school was pressured to stop using ferrets by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), which argued that the procedure violated a federal animal-welfare law.

The practice was discontinued in December 2011, according to a letter sent to PCRM last week from Tina Mankowski, spokeswoman for UW Medicine.

The ferrets were used by medical residents as they were learning to insert breathing tubes in premature infants. The ferrets were anesthetized during the procedure, and the UW said the animals recovered quickly and could be used every two weeks.

According to the group, only 13 percent of the pediatric-residency programs in the United States use animals for such training.

In the letter to PCRM, Mankowski said the university is using simulators to train medical students.

“Over time, simulation will be a more cost-effective way to train intubation techniques,” she wrote. “Providing these animals with the care, feeding and a stimulating environment is an expense that will be avoided using the simulation model.”

John Pippin, director of academic affairs for PCRM, wrote to UW Medicine congratulating the school on its decision. He described the simulator as a “compassionate and superior training experience.”

Comments | More in Education, General news | Topics: ferrets, UW Medicine

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