By John G. Carlton Post-Dispatch Medical
St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
It wasn't the science that Phillip K. Settle found difficult to understand in his first year at St. Louis University Medical School. It was the ethics.
Specifically, it was the ethics of anesthetizing, dissecting and killing a dog.
It's done in medical school laboratories at St. Louis University and at many other schools around the country to teach students basic physiology. Settle is one of a growing number of students who would like it to stop. Adding its voice to the debate - with a half-page ad in the school's student paper, The University News - is a national advocacy group called Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine. The ad urges students to "Save your first patient. Choose an alternative to the animal lab." A spokesman for the committee, based in Washington, said it created the ad after receiving a complaint from Settle last fall. The group opposes using animals for research. St. Louis University officials say they have considered alternatives but believe that the animal lab best prepares students for the difficult and demanding profession they have chosen. They stress that animals used in the lab are well-treated and thoroughly anesthetized. On Thursday, Settle talked about his objections to the lab, a required course for all first-year students. He said he avoided it by writing a formal request based on his ethical objections. "I don't want to sound like one of those animal rights fanatics that want to shut down all animal research," he explained. But concepts covered in the lab class are already well understood by scientists and, he said, can be demonstrated by other means, such as computer simulations and videotapes. "We're talking about an animal's life here," Settle said. "Especially in a medical school, you should be trying to promote a real reverence for life rather than using animals as a means to an end. …