Zygmunt Dembek sounds a false alarm in his letter about the value of alternatives to animal dissection in the training of veterinarians, medical doctors, and other medical professionals (Letters, The Scientist, 12:10, Jan. 5, 1998). He would have readers believe that students who have shunned animal dissection in favor of computer simulations and other alternative training methods are unprepared to work on real patients, while implying that students who have dissected dead or anesthetized animals emerge prepared for their careers.
In truth, neither group is prepared. It is only when students begin to work with patients in the clinical setting (as interns and residents, then as "practicing" professionals) that they truly gain proficiency in their skills.
To appreciate the diminishing role of animal dissections in medical training, consider that, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, half of the 126 medical schools in the United States...
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