Bill would prohibit Hopkins from using pigs to train doctors

Legislation would prohibit Hopkins from using pigs to train doctors.

A bill that would stop Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine from using animals in medical training will get a hearing in Annapolis Thursday.

The legislation in the House Health and Government Operations Committee would prohibit any medical school in the state from using live or dead animals in training if there is an alternative method that is used by at least one other medical school in Maryland. Violations could lead to a $1,000 fine per animal.

Hopkins is the only medical school in the state, and one of two across the nation, that still uses animals in training. The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Chattanooga campus also uses animals, according to a 2015 poll of almost 200 medical schools in the United States and Canada by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

The physicians committee, an animal rights group, has for years picketed, petitioned and sought legal action against Hopkins. It pushed for similar legislation last year, but the measure failed to gain any traction. Several doctors from the group, including some who trained at Hopkins and plan to testify at the hearing, say use of animals is now unnecessary and outdated.

Many medical schools have turned to simulators and human cadavers for training, citing costs, better technology, and sometimes, bad publicity, in the past 20 years. The University of Maryland School of Medicine opened a simulator center in 2006. Hopkins also uses simulators, and officials have said previously that the school also offers an optional surgical course that uses anesthetized swine.

A day ahead of the hearing in Annapolis, Audrey Huang, a Hopkins spokeswoman, said, “The use of live animals in medical teaching is rigorously reviewed on a regular basis by the Johns Hopkins University institutional animal care and use committee. The Johns Hopkins University complies with all government policies including U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations, the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and will continue to do so.”

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