22 September 2012
Over the past 11 years to date, the United States has endured almost 8000 casualties from two major conflicts (iCasualties.org, 2012). Although this number is staggering, we have also seen soldiers surviving injuries that were previously fatal (Philpott, 2005). This increase in survivability is largely due to the advancements in medical research and applied training. When it comes to military trauma, our warrior medics should be equipped with the most realistic training attainable. Although several simulation aids are used to provide this training, other methods such as live tissue training are still employed. In recent years, this controversial “fringe science” of live tissue in military training has been aired in the media, raising many ethical debates. Although the United States Government has identified that this type of training is legal and authorized, many animal rights groups are claiming that this method is unethical, stating it is “as outdated as civil war rifles” (PETA, 2008). Live tissue training in the military environment has been proven to enhance the survivability of soldiers despite its perceived mistreatment of animals. The ethical dilemma faced in this situation is whether the harm to animals for trauma training is justified; is the guaranteed trauma and taking of an animal’s life outweighed by the potential rescue of a human’s on the battlefield? Issue:
The ethical dilemma faced in live tissue training is whether applied harm to animals for the purpose of trauma training is ethically justified. With the advances in medical training aids, combat medics are becoming more and more comfortable in treating devastating injuries on the battlefield. Simulators now range from moulage equipment used to “dress up a casualty,” to breathing and bleeding mannequins controlled with computer systems. Although these advances have aided in trauma training, they still do not exact the mechanisms of injury in war fighting, nor do they allow for the real stressors of combat medicine. These aspects of battlefield medicine can only be addressed with the application of live tissue training. By creating actual traumatic injuries with high power weapons, knives, and explosives, warriors can see and better understand the real effects of battlefield trauma. 2LT Smith, a United States Army medical officer, supports this stating, “We decided to use live tissue training because nothing else can come close to replicating the experience of treating traumatic injuries” (Smith IV, 2012).
Based on the above data, can it be justified that the harm to animal casualties is ethical? Deployment Medicine International (DMI) President, Dr. John Hagmann, MD, believes so. In a personal discussion during a March 2012 Operational Emergency Medicine Skills course for Special Operations Forces, Dr. Hagmann stated, “Pigs are given an anesthetic and pain medication before being wounded and are euthanized after the training is complete” (Hagmann, 2012). He also went on to state that a Camp Lejeune, NC veterinarian is on-site throughout the entire training course to ensure no pigs ever regain consciousness during the exercises and that none ever appear to be in distress. DMI is approved to conduct basic and advanced medical training by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under a research certification, by the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and is accredited by the Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC International) (DMI, 2012). While support from international military service agencies exists, as well as approval from the federal government, animal rights activist organizations believe that this type of training is unethical and lacks justification. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is urging the United States Army to...