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NO matter how many years of experience you have as a veterinarian, your first consultation remains etched on your mind. Whether you were stood in front of a mother and her child's laminitic pony, an elderly man and his beloved dog with a palpable abdominal mass, or a farmer and his valuable downer cow, the question was the same: what do I do now? The comforting shadow of an experienced teacher in the background has gone; decisions need to be made and expectations are high. Clinical knowledge and skills need to be combined with a consideration of ethical aspects of the case and delivered in a professional manner. This is one of the great challenges of the transition from undergraduate veterinary student to veterinary practice (Rhind and others 2011).
Decision-making is the cornerstone of the veterinarian's role, and an expectation of all healthcare professionals. Veterinarians have to make decisions in order to provide appropriate care options for the animals that they are managing. The complex nature of veterinary interactions, with multiple stakeholders often involved, can make this process difficult to manage, especially for recent graduate veterinarians. There is no doubting that the ethical aspects of many of these decisions – the moral reasoning – is often the most challenging, and so the ability of individual veterinarians to negotiate these factors is an important consideration. The moral maze of veterinary practice becomes harder to navigate if veterinarians do not have the capability to reason through ethical dilemmas appropriately to aid their clinical decision-making. The …