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UK veterinary schools: emphasis on end-of-life issues
  1. G. E. Dickinson, Ph.D1 and
  2. E. S. Paul, Ph.D2
  1. 1Department of Sociology and Anthropology, College of Charleston, 66 George Street, Charleston, SC 29424, USA
  2. 2Department of Animal Behavior and Welfare, School of Clinical Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, Langford House, Bristol, Langford BS 40 5DU, UK
  1. E-mail for correspondence: dickinsong{at}cofc.edu

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Animal death produces many challenges for the veterinarian. Her/his knowledge and experience are crucial for making decisions concerning euthanasia, as owners are often not capable of assessing the quality of life of their pets (Fernandez-Mehler and others 2013). He/she is also responsible for assuring a smooth and peaceful transition for the patient and, additionally, for dealing with the grief that ensues; that of the client, other staff members and, potentially, that of the veterinarian herself/himself (Hart and others 1990, Cohen-Salter and others 2004). Veterinary medicine is client-oriented, as opposed to patient-oriented for physicians (Sanders 1995). The role of veterinary practitioners, therefore, is significantly different from that of medical doctors in their care of dying and deceased patients. Veterinary education that enables understanding and acceptance of the emotional responses associated with end-of-life care and the decision of euthanasia can assist with effective communication, support and coping during this process (Stull 2013).

The purpose of this research was to determine the current status of end-of-life issues within the curricula of veterinary schools in the UK, and to compare these findings with US veterinary schools and medical and nursing schools. A questionnaire survey was sent to the deans of the seven veterinary medicine schools in the UK in February 2013, with three follow-ups to non-respondents. Questions included: extent of the topic of end-of-life issues within the curriculum, number of teaching hours, percentage of students participating in the offering(s), teaching method(s), professional background of the instructor(s) and whether grief support/grief hotlines were available to students.

Six of the seven UK veterinary schools completed the survey. All the responding schools reported offering some …

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