Editorial Blasts Vivisection at University
of CO 3/6/2002 DO NO HARM
(Editorial in the Boulder CO Daily
Maybe it's just stubbornness and institutional pride, but given the
gradual steps the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center has taken in
recent years toward the important goal of eliminating its cruel and notorious
"dog labs" for medical students, it's hard to understand what's to be gained by
clinging to the practice.
The dog labs, for those who haven't heard — or who have heard only
CU's propaganda — are not about medical research. Not one scintilla of knowledge
is contributed to medical science when students slice into living, anesthetized
dogs. The procedure does not teach surgical technique, nor is it intended to.
Practicing vivisection just so students can peer into body cavities, then
euthanizing the dogs, is not just inhumane, but truly pointless.
"I remember nothing of the physiological lessons taught that day,"
says Dr. Beverly F. Gilden, a CU alumna who now practices in
Colo. "What I have always remembered is a
strange sense of disgust that this was felt to be necessary."
And though the powers that be at the university won't say it, with
each passing year they seem to stray a bit further from the rigid myopia that
has kept this practice going for far too long. Last year, CU eliminated dog labs
for renal physiology courses, replacing them with computer simulations (cardio
and pulmonary vivisection continues, however). And the university says it no
longer obtains dogs from suspect "Class B" dealers, some of whom have engaged in
unethical practices and even stolen pets.
Perhaps most importantly, for the first time this year, medical
students must specifically sign up for a dog lab — participation must be
affirmative. Ironically, until recently, medical students who objected to
needless killing were unceremoniously booted out of school. In recent years,
they were forced to seek permission not to pointlessly carve up and kill a dog.
Still, mindless devotion to the labs can be found in the most
surprising places, including the Colorado Legislature and the CU Board of
Regents. Neither body has been very receptive to dog lab opponents, who have the
bulk of evidence on their side (and who will hold a candlelight vigil at Friday, the first day of the 2002 labs, in front of the
medical school, at 8th Avenue
and Colorado Boulevard in
Denver). Officials' dogged defense of CU's vivisection
often echoes widespread misconceptions.
"I would without a doubt sacrifice any dog I've ever had for the
life of my grandchild," Regent Norwood Robb has said.
Well, who wouldn't? But whether or not CU medical students cut open
and kill dogs has absolutely no bearing on the survival prospects of Robb's, or
anybody else's, grandchildren. To repeat: The dog labs engage in no research,
and do not teach surgical technique. They are, at best, a kind of outmoded, gory
Regent Peter Steinhauer, a retired oral surgeon, claims computer
simulations just can't replace carving up dogs. Strange, then, that 94 of the
nation's 125 medical schools have abandoned vivisection in favor of ... computer
simulations. By the way, none of the top ten medical schools (as ranked by U.S.
News & World Report, including Harvard, Johns Hopkins, the
San Francisco and Stanford ... but not CU) uses
vivisection to teach physiology.
And Health Sciences officials continue to insist, despite the
evidence, that there simply is no other adequate way to teach physiology.
All these bloody excuses just don't wash, and CU's gradualist
approach accomplishes nothing except to doom more dogs to cruel, gratuitous
vivisection. The case for eliminating the dog labs is clear, compelling and
It's time for CU's excellent medical school to quit fretting about
its wounded pride and focus on teaching medical students according to the
highest tenet of the Hippocratic Oath: Above all, do no harm.