American Heart Association Disapproves Training on Animal Labs, Memo States

American Heart Association Agrees With PETA About Eliminating Training on  Animal Labs

By Ian Smith

Norfolk, Va. (RushPRNews) 02/13/09— After People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) launched its campaign to end the use of cats and ferrets for intubation training in the Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) course sponsored by the American Heart Association (AHA), the AHA has sent a memo to all affiliated training centers in the U.S. In the memo, the AHA reminds the centers that it “does not require or endorse the use of live animals” for PALS and distances itself from any program that does continue to use animals.

The PALS course is designed to equip healthcare professionals with the skills necessary to care for critically ill infants in emergency situations. While the overwhelming majority of PALS training centers opt to exclusively use superior simulation manikins for intubation training, an ongoing PETA survey has revealed that there are still facilities, such as the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, that currently use live cats or ferrets in these exercises. This involves repeatedly forcing hard plastic tubes down animals’ wind pipes.

Repeated intubation of cats and ferrets can cause bleeding, swelling, severe pain, possible scarring, collapsed lungs, and even death. These risks are amplified by the fact that course participants are not yet proficient in the procedure but are still learning.

Cindy Tait, R.N., M.P.H.—one of the original developers of the PALS course and president of the Center for Healthcare Education, the largest medical training center in Southern California—says that she is “adamantly opposed to the use of live animals or animal parts in the American Heart Association PALS training course.”

“There is very little specificity. Human infants do not have tongues 1.5 times the length of their mouth, nor do infants have fully developed incisors,” said Tait. “[W]e find no similarities between a human infant and the hairy facial structures and elongated jaws and snouts of these animals,” she added.


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Additionally, Tait expressed concern that the impact on students can be detrimental to the learning process. “The physical trauma to the animals can be emotionally traumatic to the students when they realize that the outcome is a very sore and sometimes mutilated live animal that must be either destroyed or adopted,” she said.

Conversely, the simulators that most PALS courses use allow participants to concentrate, refine their techniques, and practice on accurate human anatomy. In fact, researchers have found that those with manikin-based training in intubation perform better than those who train on animals or even humans.

The American Heart Association is not the only medical organization that does not endorse the use of animals for such training courses. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Emergency Nurses Association, both of which offer pediatric life support courses that include intubation training, also exclusively endorse the use of human simulation manikins instead of cruel animal-based training.

For more information about PETA’s efforts to end animal use in the PALS course, please visit http://getactive.peta.org/campaign/st_louis.