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Ethical dilemmas encountered by small animal veterinarians: challenging the status quo?
  1. Vanessa Ashall, BVSc, MA, PhD, CertWEL, DipECAWBM(AWSEL), MRCVS
  1. Centre for Applied Bioethics, School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington, Leicestershire LE12 5RD, UK
  1. E-mail: vanessa.ashall{at}nottingham.ac.uk

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Ethical dilemmas frequently arise in veterinary practice and can be a cause of work-related stress. The study by Kipperman and others,1 summarised on p 548 of this week’s Vet Record, offers a fascinating quantitative evidence-based analysis of the ethical dilemmas faced by small animal clinicians in the USA. Their study is based on the responses of 484 small animal practitioners to an online survey exploring the ethical dilemmas encountered in contemporary small animal practice. The paper delves into the specific ethical challenges associated with companion animal euthanasia and animal advocacy and the responses of surveyed veterinary surgeons provides an honest and at times unsettling account of everyday clinical decision making, which should pique the interest of UK veterinary professionals.

For example, the study found that exactly half of the respondents believed they prioritise the interests of animal patients over those of the client. Interestingly, they were also of the opinion that only 20 per cent of other small animal veterinarians do so. The challenges associated with animal advocacy are illustrated through an exploration of euthanasia of companion animals – the authors found that more respondents agreed than disagreed that veterinarians use euthanasia as a method of resolving difficult cases when this may not be in the best interests of the patient. Indeed, 42 per cent of surveyed US vets reported that they had done this at least …

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