Stan’s no dummy when it comes to medicine

Stan’s no dummy when it comes to medicine

Killed and brought back to life again and again, poisoned, tormented mercilessly by sadistic children, and forced to undergo regular sex changes, poor Stan has a generally hard time of it.


At least, though, his sacrifices are not in vain – they are helping to train future generations of pharmacologists, chemists and clinical scientists.

Stan is a flesh-coloured life-size dummy at the University of Bradford’s Integrated Learning Life Sciences Centre whose sole job is to experience medical emergencies for students to practice on.

Linked to a powerful computer, he has a beating heart, the ability to bleed, cry and sweat, and even a voice that allows his pain to be heard.

His chief role at the university is to simulate the effects of medicines and overdoses, and there are about 60 different drugs programmed into his memory banks.

Life sciences lecturer Dr Keren Bielby-Clarke said: “He actually has a heart that beats – if you put a stethoscope on his chest you can hear it beating.

“He also has proper bowel sounds and bladders that can be filled with fluid. He can bleed, sweat and cry, and you can simulate the gases coming out of his lungs.

“We can’t test drugs on students and we can’t drag people off the streets to see what the effects of drugs are. Also, we’re not allowed to carry out tests on animal tissue.”

She said Stan “died” on average four or five times a week, depending on what the students were doing to him.

But on open days and school trip visits Stan might be murdered as frequently as once a minute – by children.

“The children are likely to come in and give him everything,” said Dr Bielby-Clarke.

“They enjoy sticking their fingers in his mouth and pulling on his ears and one of the first things they do is check under his shorts.”

She explained that Stan could be male or female, but with children around during the science festival Stan had been turned into a “bit of a hermaphrodite”.

Dr Bielby-Clarke confessed to sometimes joining in the abuse – much to the delight of the youngsters.

“I can flick a switch and make him scream,” she said.

More seriously, Stan is programmed to faithfully simulate a range of different medical shocks including the effects of stab wounds, severe asthma attacks and life-threatening allergic reactions.

During a demonstration for journalists, Stan was – through computer simulation – given the beta blocker drug propranolol, which dropped his heart rate from 71 to 32 beats per minute.

A moving line representing the changing heartbeat was displayed on a large screen.

Another drug Stan was familiar with was nitroprusside, which lowers blood pressure.

“We use that to kill him – just to see how easy it is,” said Dr Bielby-Clarke.