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When veterinary teams are faced with clients who can't afford to pay
  1. Tierney Kinnison, BSc, MSc, PhD, PGCertVetEd, FHEA
  1. Veterinary Epidemiology, Economics and Public Health, Royal Veterinary College, Hatfield,
    Hertfordshire AL9 7TA, UK; e-mail:

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WORKING within the veterinary field is complex. The multiple stakeholders that a veterinary surgeon considers within ethical-decision making have long been understood to include the clinician, patient and client, as well as the profession and the profession's relationship with society (May 2012). When veterinary surgeons and nurses graduate in the UK, they must make the well-known declaration: ‘I promise and solemnly declare that I will pursue the work of my profession with integrity and accept my responsibilities to the public, my clients, the profession and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and that, above all, my constant endeavour will be to ensure the health and welfare of animals committed to my care’ (RCVS 2012a, 2012b). This is all the more challenging when presented with clients who cannot pay for care which is considered necessary.

In a recently published article Cross (2016) commented: ‘I knew I had done nothing wrong as a vet – the animal was treated and further appointments were booked with no consideration of payment or absence of payment.’ This comment fully complies with the RCVS declaration by making the patient the number one priority. However, taken out of context, it might also seem a concerning statement because a veterinary practice cannot function if no …

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