PUBLISHED:May 22, 2008

Professor William Reppy convinces East Carolina University to stop using live animals in surgical training

May 22, 2008 — William Reppy, Charles L.B. Lowndes Emeritus Professor of Law and director of the Duke’s Animal Law Project, convinced the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University to stop using live pigs in their medical surgery courses. Effective July 1 the medical school, one of 10 remaining medical schools in the country that uses live animals in teaching, will stop the practice.

When asked how he felt upon first learning ECU would stop live-animal testing, Reppy said, “Truly excited!”

All it took was a letter outlining legal, scientific, and ethical reasons to stop the practice. “I strongly urge you to cease using live animals as teaching tools in order to comply with the terms of AWA [Animal Welfare Act], to modernize your curricula, and to be responsive to the mission and the sentiments of your students,” he wrote to the interim dean of the medical school.

Reppy was asked to address the issue at the Brody School of Medicine by Matt Norris, a member of the Durham law firm Postlethwait, Huggins, & Morrison, after the latter was contacted by the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “It was very satisfying to play a small role in adding Brody to the overwhelming list of other schools that have discontinued the use of live-animals in their medical school training,” he said. The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine also supported the intervention.

In his letter, Reppy pointed out that none of the nine new medical schools opening nationally in the 2007-2008 year are adopting live animal testing. A non-animal curriculum is the “current medical education standard of practice,” wrote Reppy who went on to assert “students receive at least equal training, if not better, without using live animals in the classroom.”

He also offered alternatives to using animals for life-support training. He pointed out the 1986 decision by the U.S. military to use “computer-based interactive videodiscs” for teaching purposes. His letter also noted that in 2001, the American College of Surgeons approved the use of simulators, as opposed to cadavers or live animals, for teaching life-support tactics to medical students.

“Alternatives such as these and more have been implemented by all but 10 of the medical schools in the United States, with excellent results,” Reppy wrote. - C.H.