ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Missouri native Bob Barker sent a letter to Washington University, his wife's alma mater, on behalf of PETA.
In the letter, Barker offered to pay for realistic infant simulators to replace intubation training on cats.
PDF: Read Bob Barker's entire letter
NewsChannel 5 reached out to Washington University for a statement.
A spokesperson released the following:
The American Heart Association evidence-based PALS Course is presented by St. Louis Children's Hospital and sponsored by Washington University School of Medicine to provide participants with information and strategies to:
Prevent injury and death in infants and children
Recognize and initiate treatment for infants and children with impending respiratory failure and shock and cardiopulmonary arrest
Support families and providers in coping with emergencies and death
The course is geared toward pediatricians, family practice physicians, paramedics, advanced practice nurses, nurses, emergency physicians, respiratory therapists and other practitioners.
The program offers intubation training through simulation mannequins and offers a voluntary adjunct program with anesthetized cats.
Intubation refers to the process of inserting a tube into the throat when a person cannot breathe unassisted. It's a delicate process requiring precision and speed, often with life-threatening consequences to a child if not completed quickly. Many of the patients at St. Louis Children's Hospital are very tiny, some only a few days or hours old.
The people best qualified to practice advanced life-saving techniques on small children and infants are those who've had a well-rounded and comprehensive training course, where they're exposed to multiple forms of instruction including the use of mannequins and live animals. Ultimately, our goal is to do what's right for kids, and that means giving our physicians and caregivers every possible learning tool so they're best prepared to save these tiny young lives.
Research shows that as low as 21-24% of infants in medical distress are successfully intubated on the first attempt by pediatric physician trainees, suggesting improvement in training is necessary. Therefore, in addition to initial training on mannequins, we provide training with anesthetized cats as a voluntary adjunct to our PALS course. We have enrollees who appreciate this additional training and travel long distances so they can attend our course.
Mannequins are a valuable teaching tool, and they're a very important part of the program. Even the most sophisticated artificial simulation can't compare to the use of a live animal. The cat's anatomy most closely resembles that of an infant human, with movements and reflexes that can't be imitated by something man-made. Using mannequins isn't as effective as using mannequins and a live animal. This is why the adjunct program is offered.
Highly-qualified and experienced emergency medicine physicians instruct the program and a doctor of veterinary medicine and veterinarian technicians oversee each class to ensure no cat suffers or is injured during the class.
In the program's more than 20-year history, a cat has never suffered an injury. They are under anesthesia during the 30-minute class and feel no pain. They participate in 3-4 classes per year and their service lasts three years, during which time they live in clean, comfortable, uncaged conditions, and after which they're adopted into loving families.
Due to the significant expense of offering these advanced training programs, many smaller universities are not able to offer a compatible course. We accept physicians and nurses from outside our medical campus, and from outside the region, who travel here specifically for the enhanced training opportunity that we offer.
At the request of PETA, in mid-January 2009, the USDA conducted a thorough assessment of the airway intubation program and facilities, and gave its full approval and support of the program. The USDA, which regulates animal use in the academic setting, found no violations of any rules or guidelines, and absolutely nothing questionable at all with the program.
Participants tell us they feel more confident and better prepared to take on the challenge of intubating a small child because of having had the opportunity to take advantage of the live animal course. That's what every parent wants - the most confident and well-prepared caregiver at their child's bedside.
While we believe the live animal training is a valuable teaching tool that cannot yet be duplicated in simulation, participants are given the opportunity to opt out of that part of the program.