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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, I rise today to discuss military medical training, and specifically, the use of live animals in trauma training.

Many Americans may be unaware that the Military still uses live pigs and goats in combat trauma training courses to train military personnel to treat battlefield injuries. This is an outdated and inefficient training method that does not fully prepare doctors and medics to treat wounded service members.

For many years, medical simulation has not been able to provide a training experience superior to animal-based live tissue training, but the newest generation of simulators can do just that. These simulators are based on human anatomy and recreate the feeling, the sights, and the sounds of treating a wounded service member.

In current military training, live pigs and goats are anesthetized while trainees perform critical procedures on them. In some cases, the animals are shot in the face or have limbs amputated while the trainees are instructed to keep them alive as long as possible. This is inhumane, but more importantly, it is like comparing apples and oranges--this does not teach service members how to treat a human soldier, only how to operate on a goat or pig. And while live tissue training has some value in getting trainees accustomed to the sight of blood, medical simulation can now do the same, and has become the new gold standard.

In civilian medical training courses, which teach many of the same procedures as the military, simulators have almost universally replaced the use of live animals. The reason for this is simple; to learn how to treat human injuries, you must learn on human anatomy. Medical simulation can now replicate that anatomy while providing the emotional and psychological pressure of working on a living, wounded soldier.

Let me say that I applaud the investments that the Department of Defense has made in the area of simulation. No one has invested more in simulation technology than the Military. But the problem that I see is that despite millions of dollars in investments, simulator technology is not being fully utilized.

Speaking of costs, in addition to providing superior training and reducing animal suffering, a move away from live tissue training would save taxpayer dollars. Due to the many hidden costs of animal use, such as housing and feeding the animals, purchasing drugs for euthanasia and anesthesia, and keeping a veterinarian on staff, simulation can offer a better training experience at a lower cost.

But at the end of the day this is about providing the best possible training for our troops, because in military medicine the difference between the best training and the next best can literally mean the difference between life and death.

For these reasons I introduced today the Battlefield Excellence through Superior Training Practices, or BEST Practices Act. This legislation lays out a timeline for the Department of Defense to develop and fully implement innovative simulator technology in medical training, and to phase out live tissue training on animals in the process.

I want to note that I designed this legislation with a specific waiver authority for the Secretary of Defense, so that if there is a specific procedure that can only be best taught with live tissue use, that option is not removed. But the BEST Practices Act is primarily designed to engage the Pentagon to embrace this technology, continue further development, and incorporate this technology in military training in all cases where simulators provide the best result.

Just as we have seen with other technologies, the advancements in medical simulation are increasing at an exponential rate. The capabilities currently in place and under development are truly amazing. The BEST Practices Act capitalizes on these present and future capabilities, and uses them to save the lives of our service members.

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