I remember once, in a high school science class, being obliged to dissect a frog.
It wasn’t an exercise I enjoyed. A frog alive on a lily pad or on the bank of a pond is a rather engaging creature. But that one of mine — extremely dead and reeking a bit of formaldehyde — was not at all pleasant.
Lying on its back, its pale belly up and arms and legs akimbo as it awaited the knife, it was a good deal more humanlike than I’d have preferred.
What, if anything, I learned from that sad little exercise I can’t say.
But several years later, in college, I was lodging in student quarters with fellow underclassmen, some of them taking advanced biology courses in preparation for medical school.
At the end of each class day they would come back carrying the grim subjects of their anatomical studies. Generally those were some kind of small shark. Fish I didn’t so much mind, except for the perfume.
It was the cat cadavers that gave me the creeps.
Lately, however, pressure by animal welfare groups has had some impact on medical training. A recent Associated Press report told that St. Louis Children’s Hospital no longer uses sedated cats in teaching how to insert breathing tubes into the throats of infants.
Among the alternatives proposed was the possible use of sophisticated mannequins — ordroids
, in the current lingo. One activist even offered to provide two such robots, but that substitute was deemed inadequate by a hospital pediatrician.
I am quite confessedly on the side of the cats. And if lifelike imitations won’t serve to spare them the pain and indignity of tubes being stuck down their throats, I can suggest an alternative.
The idea has several advantages. For one, it would give the zealots blocking progress in Washington an opportunity — for a change — to serve the public good.
And what’s more, sedation would be unnecessary. They wouldn’t even feel the tubes going down. Because there’s one thing we know for sure from the partisan nonsense they so endlessly spout.
The political animal has no gag point.