William Westhoven, @WWesthoven 5:08 p.m. EST November 17, 2016
The Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine put up this billboard criticizing what it claims are training programs at Morristown Medical Center that use live dogs for invasive physician training. The hospital denies the accusation.(Photo: William Westhoven/Daily Record)
A Washington-based nonprofit group has erected ads in two NJ Transit train stations and leased a New Jersey Turnpike billboard to accuse Morristown Medical Center of practicing invasive medical-training procedures on live dogs.
A spokesperson for the hospital, however, said Tuesday that "There is no medical training with animals conducted at Morristown Medical Center."
The Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine announced the ad campaign on Tuesday. The billboard, located just north of Exit 13 on the Turnpike near Newark Liberty International Airport, shows a sad-looking dog and states "Morristown Medical Center: Don’t kill man’s best friend for medical training. NewJerseyDeservesBetter.org.”
The ad at Morristown Train Station, mounted on a wall in the lower-level entrance, mentions Morristown, but does not identify the hospital. But visitors to the NewJerseyDeservesBetter.org website are taken to a page that does identify Morristown Medical Center and urges people to write letters in protest to hospital President Trish O’Keefe and Chief Medical Officer Louis Brusco Jr.
The two NJ Transit train platform ads present a similar image and message to the billboard. A spokesperson for the committee on Tuesday could not confirm the location of the second train-station ad.
"Emergency-medicine training through Morristown Medical Center involves cutting into live dogs to practice emergency medical procedures," the committed alleged in its announcement of the ads. "Some of the procedures performed include cutting open the chest to insert tubes and clamp the major artery, cracking the breast bone to perform suturing on the exposed heart, and inserting or drilling catheters into bones. At the end of each training session, the surviving dogs are killed."
"All emergency medicine residents training onsite at Morristown Medical Center use medical donors or human simulators to learn about and practice commonly seen procedures and techniques," said Morristown Medical Center spokesperson Elaine Andrecovich. "For a small number of rare, life-saving procedures uncommonly seen in the emergency department — let alone during a residency — our emergency-medicine residents attend one four-hour lab program at an off-site facility not affiliated with (hospital operators) Atlantic Health System or located on any Atlantic Health System property. Though comparable, medical donors and simulators are not the physiological or anatomical equivalent of live tissue. This program allows them to practice these complicated, potentially life-saving procedures on live tissue."
The committee, which claims in its mission statement to be leading "a revolution in medicine — putting a new focus on health and compassion," advocates "prevention over pills." Its programs emphasize nutrition and healthy diets, including vegetarian and vegan, and calls for shifting research from animal models to human-relevant studies. The committee also works with policymakers and the medical-research industry to adopt alternatives to chemical tests on animals.
Claiming to represent more than 12,000 physicians and have more than 150,000 members, the committee has run similar campaigns in the past, many targeting the procedures at medical schools around the United States.
"Eighty-nine percent (142 of 160) of U.S. emergency-medicine residency programs surveyed by the Physicians Committee teach the same procedures (as Morrristown Medical Center) without using animals," the committee stated. "Morristown Medical Center already has a state-of-the-art simulation center that could provide the resources to replace the use of animals in the emergency-medicine residency."
“Morristown Medical Center’s use of live dogs makes it a laggard in emergency medicine training, as well as an embarrassment to the town of Morristown,” says Dr. John Pippin, the committee's director of academic affairs. “I strongly urge Morristown Medical Center to advance its emergency-medicine training and switch to the educationally superior methods that are based exclusively on human anatomy. This change would be welcomed by the millions of dog-loving residents of New Jersey who will be appalled by this practice.”
The committee added that Pippin and several New Jersey physicians are submitting letters to both Morristown Mayor Timothy Dougherty and New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino, to inform them of Morristown Medical Center’s training methods, claiming they violate New Jersey animal cruelty statute.
"The offsite program follows all federal and state laws about animals in teaching and research activities, and upholds humane and ethical standards," Andrecovich said. "The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education requires our emergency residents be able to safely and proficiently perform life-saving procedures in order to satisfy their training requirements. As such, Atlantic Health System echoes the statement of The American College of Surgeons, which believes that, “It is not possible to completely replace the use of animals and that the study of whole living organisms, tissues, and cells is an indispensable element of biomedical research, education, and teaching.”
Daily Record Staff Writer William Westhoven: 973-917-9242; wwesthoven@GannettNJ.com.
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