At last, advancements in medical mannequins and simulators has motivated Washington University’s School of Medicine to stop using sedated cats when training doctors in how to insert a tube down the windpipe of a baby (intubation).
For many people the change in policy has been too slow in coming. It has been argued that modern medical equipment has been available for some time. There has been no need to use cats. The concept in any case appears wrong and misplaced.
It has also been argued that paediatric training using cats is unsatisfactory because the anatomy is different.
Dr John Pippin, director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee said:
“The best way to teach emergency airway intervention is on human-relevant training methods. I commend Washington University for switching to modern methods…”
In the past Washington University has been criticised. The cats suffer injuries and pain it has been argued. Although the universities school of medicine said:
“In the 25-plus years the university has relied on cats in teaching this procedure, none was harmed during training.”
I am not convinced by that statement. Partly because intubation appears to be a tricky procedure. Research indicates that paediatric doctors who are undergoing training succeed in 20-35% of the time in their initial attempts to intubate infants. That indicates that a lot of cats over the past 25 years have suffered minor injuries and pain as a consequence of trainees stuffing a tube down their windpipe incorrectly.
This thought is supported by an undercover video released by PETA showing a trainee struggling to place a tube in the windpipe of a sedated cat.
The truth is that the time to stop using sedated cats for this sort of training is long overdue. I am pleased that Washington University’s School of Medicine has recognised that simple fact.
It is also pleasant to report some good cat news.