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David Williams and Jonathan Jewell argue that parallels between veterinary medicine and human paediatric care have not been exploited as widely as they might be, and could help in solving some ethical dilemmas where the welfare of animals and their owners seem at odds.
WHEN qualifying as veterinary surgeons, all new members of the RCVS promise that ‘my constant endeavour will be to ensure the welfare of the animals committed to my care’ (RCVS 2010). This is stated as a prime concern, and so it should be. But what place should the welfare of the owner take in our treatment of the animals presented before us? The elderly widow for whom her equally elderly dog is her sole companion? The seven-year-old child for whom the demise of her beloved cat is her first encounter with death? The farmer for whom the diagnosis of tuberculosis in his cattle herd may be the last nail in the coffin of his economically stricken farming enterprise? Part of the joy and strife of veterinary practice is dealing with the welfare not only of the animal patient in our care but care of the human owner as well.
Bernard Rollin was the first to make the useful suggestion of a veterinarian being more analogous to a paediatrician than a car mechanic (Rollin 1981, 2006). And a key part of this is dealing with the welfare of those intimately involved with the patient as much as with the patient itself. In this article, we investigate the situation as it currently stands in human paediatric care and consider whether evaluation of family-centred paediatric care can help in constructing a similar family-centred, rather than merely patient-centred, model of veterinary medicine.
The welfare of owners of animal patients, be they pets or farm animals, does not feature in …