By Veronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis, MO – The animal rights organization PETA held a protest today against St. Louis Children's Hospital for its use of live cats in a pediatric emergency training course.
Course trainees use an infant-like manikin to practice intubation, a procedure which involves inserting a plastic tube into the windpipe of a patient to facilitate breathing. The trainees are then given the option of practicing the intubation on an anesthetized cat.
The hospital's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sessions Cole, says the cats are a critical part of the training. "Even the most sophisticated manikin can't really duplicate the anatomy and the reflexes and the movements that are provided by a live animal like a cat."
PETA spokesman Ian Smith says repeated intubation can injure or kill the cats and that the course sponsor, the American Heart Association, does not endorse the use of live animals in the training. "They exclusively recommend the use of human-like manikins."
St. Louis Children's Hospital says no cats have been injured in the training course. The hospital puts the cats up for adoption as pets after 2 to 3 years.