Handling Human Samples Is Worth the Risk

Brad FitzpatrickJust recently, our university's Biosafety Committee told the faculty that we must discontinue certain laboratory exercises. The long list includes human blood, blood products, body fluids (cerebrospinal, synovial, pleural, pericardial, peritoneal, and amniotic fluids, saliva, and urine), contaminated needles, pathological wastes, microbiological wastes, and unfixed human tissues and organs.We think that this decision, based on safety reasons that we can appreciate, is wrong. To q

Gilbert Ellis
Apr 11, 2004
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Brad Fitzpatrick

Just recently, our university's Biosafety Committee told the faculty that we must discontinue certain laboratory exercises. The long list includes human blood, blood products, body fluids (cerebrospinal, synovial, pleural, pericardial, peritoneal, and amniotic fluids, saliva, and urine), contaminated needles, pathological wastes, microbiological wastes, and unfixed human tissues and organs.

We think that this decision, based on safety reasons that we can appreciate, is wrong. To quote our previously published article: "We feel human body fluids cannot be replaced in the teaching of physiology and can still be used effectively with minimal exposure risks if simple precautions are followed."1

The Ellis and Sanborn labs have been using body fluids in teaching biology and physiology since 1970 and 1984, respectively, and to our knowledge, we have never compromised a student, or anyone else, by using authentic blood, urine, or saliva. We understand the issues and we always err on...