Local Doctors Urge UTCOMC to Stop Using Live Pigs for Training Purposes

CHATTANOOGA, TN (WDEF ) – A bloody scalpel on a newly erected billboard is meant to grab your attention if you’re driving on Rossville Boulevard.

And 360 signatures are meant to grab the attention of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine System.

Leslie Rudloff, Physicians Committee’s senior counsel, says, "Our argument is that they’re doing a great disservice to their medical students and their patients by using pigs because it’s substandard training."

A national nonprofit organization called the Physicians Committee wants to change the training methods at UT-College of Medicine Chattanooga.

They say the school uses 300 live pigs every year.

Doctor Jane Gumnick, a Chattanooga Physician, says, "It’s under anesthesia and it’s used for a variety of complex surgical procedures that the students don’t have any experience or knowledge of yet."

We’re told the pigs are then euthanized after being cut open.

Gumnick adds, "Chattanooga is the only site that continues to do this. Knoxville doesn’t do this, Memphis doesn’t do it anymore."

However, two other medical schools in the country follow suit.

Some local physicians we spoke with say there are better tools out there to teach undergraduates.

Rudloff says, "The thing is that a pig doesn’t have the same anatomical landmarks that a human being does, so the simulator and mentor experiences with professors is the gold standard."

While hundreds of Tennessee physicians signed this petition, the groups says it’s not ready to file a lawsuit.

Rufloff says, "I just wanted to accompany Dr. Gumnick just to make them realize we’re serious about opposing their use of live pigs."

We reached out the University of Tennessee College of Medicine.

This is their statement to us.

At this point, the UT Health Science Center main office in Memphis has not received or seen the petition; however, when discussing important medical education issues, there are often many opinions about the right approach. As an academic institution, we appreciate diversity of ideas.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center uses simulators in training and, in most cases, the simulators have proven adequate for teaching purposes; however, when they are not, we use what, in our opinion, are the best models for teaching.

Surgical training is designed to develop life-saving skills to serve the needs of Tennesseans and patients in locations wherever our physicians practice.

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