ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)--Washington University's Medical School would be happy to accept two new high tech infant mannequin simulators from retired TV host Bob Barker but the school has no plans to stop using living, sedated cats to help train medical personnel.
Barker working with PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) claimed the trainers "forced hard plastic tubes down a cats throat" when teaching how to intubate an infant.
Dr. Bo Kennedy, a pediatric emergency specialist, teaches the special lab as an optional training session for doctors, nurses, paramedics and respiratory therapists. He says the cats are properly sedated for the lab under the supervision of veterinarians. A flexible plastic tube less than an eighth of an inch in diameter is inserted in the cat's windpipe to simulate the same process for an infant struggling to breath. Kennedy said Thursday it is the same tube used for infants.
Dr. Derrick Lowery, a Senior Emergency Medicine Resident working in the emergency rooms at Barnes Hospital and St. Louis Children's Hospital, took the training as an intern. "Everybody needs training..nobody wants their child to be a guinea pig the first time a doctor tries to insert a breathing tube, so I think the cat lab is fundamentally important."
The first level of training involves the use of basic mannequins and high tech mannequins. The cat lab is a voluntary class. "Three or four times a year we sedate these cats for a lab. None of them have ever had a significant injury; none of them have ever had to have any treatment after a lab," Kennedy said. He said the cats are well cared for and are used three or four times a year for three years before being placed for adoption.
Dr. Lowery, who describes himself as a cat lover, has been on a waiting list to adopt one of the lab cats for several years. This July he plans to take Toby home.
Earlier this month PETA posted what it called an undercover video of one of the cat labs. Dr. Kennedy said the claims made in the video were wrong and that the cats never were awake during any practice intubation.
The PETA group can be seen on line at PETA.org/StLouisCats
Children's Hospital offers this link: http://www.stlouischildrens.org/health-care-professionals/education/pals-class-overview