Harvard prof asks MCI to replace classroom use of animals with simulation technology


A Harvard professor has written to the Medical Council of India (MCI), urging it to replace the "cruel classroom use of animals" with cutting-edge simulation technology, animal rights body PETA said Monday.

According to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Professor John Pawlowski, who has been on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School since 1987, wrote to MCI president Jayshree Mehta stating that postgraduate medical students should receive training with the help of "academically superior, widely available and cost-effective" simulation technology. Pawlowski is co-director of the school's pharmacology course and has designed hundreds of simulation scenarios, a statement by the animal rights body said.

"After hearing from PETA India, Pawlowski wrote to MCI President Jayshree Mehta asking her to ensure that postgraduate medical students receive the best training possible by fully replacing cruel and deadly classroom use of animals with cutting-edge simulation technology, which, he states, is academically superior, widely available and more cost-effective," the statement said.

"Technology has advanced, and it is time our teaching methods did, too. That is why the world's top medical schools including Harvard, Duke and Yale rely on pedagogically superior technology such as computer-assisted learning, clinical exercises and human-patient simulation technologies instead of animals to train postgraduate medical students," Pawlowski said in the letter.

"I encourage you (Mehta) to fully replace the use of animals in classroom experiments during postgraduate medical courses and take advantage of the many benefits that sophisticated humane learning tools provide," the letter said.

PETA India said the MCI's recently revised postgraduate syllabus bans the use of dogs, cats and amphibians in medical pharmacology and physiology courses, but still permits invasive and deadly experiments on rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and mice.

It also includes forcing them to endure seizures, mutilations, suffocation, severe blood loss, exposure to harmful radiations and other cruel procedures, PETA said. The animal rights body condemned the new syllabus and urged the MCI to remove the use of all animals from the postgraduate curricula, in accordance with existing law and a central government directive.

In its letter to the council, PETA argued that by allowing the use of animals for hands-on student training, the MCI was apparently violating subsections 17(2)(d) and (f) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, which require, that experiments on animals be "avoided wherever it is possible" and that they not be "performed merely for the purpose of acquiring manual skill". The animal rights body added that using animals in such classroom training was also in violation of a 2012 directive of the Environment Ministry, which mandated the "discontinuation of dissection and animal experimentation" for postgraduate medical training.

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