Surgeons `Should Be Able to Practise on Live Pigs and Sheep'
Jeremy Laurance Health Editor, The Independent (London, England)
THE ROYAL College of Surgeons is calling for trainee surgeons to be allowed to practise on animals such as pigs before being let loose on people.
Senior doctors say that rising patient expectations and cuts in the time available for training have increased the need for practice on live animals.
The animals would be "terminally anaesthetised" - put to sleep - during the operation and humanely killed afterwards without being revived. The doctors say pigs and sheep have a similar anatomy to humans and would offer trainees relevant experience without the catastrophic consequences of a mistake in a person.
But the proposal has angered the animals lobby. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) said the college had failed to justify its proposal and demanded that alternative solutions be sought. The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) said it opposed all use of animals for ethical and scientific reasons and that to train surgeons on pigs was "using the wrong species".
Under the current law, only mice and rats may be used by surgeons for training in the techniques of microsurgery under strictly regulated Home Office licences.
Sir Peter Morris, president of the RCS, said the introduction of a shorter working week for junior doctors was creating enormous problems and the use of animals "could become an essential part of training in the technical aspects of surgery". He said: "The College feels that the restrictions on the use of terminally anaesthetised animals for training surgeons should be relaxed and extended beyond the use of rodents for training in microsurgery to allow larger animals such as pigs or sheep to be used for training in generic and specific skills. …