AAAS symposium—Ethical issues in companion-animal practice

AAAS symposium—Ethical issues in companion-animal practice

The Veterinarian's Oath provides only a guideline for ethical decision-making. In day-to-day practice, veterinarians must rely on their own sense of right and wrong to make sometimes-difficult moral choices.
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Aug 01, 2006

Companion-animal veterinarians need a strong sense of integrity to navigate the complex ethical quandaries present at the crossroads of pets, owners, and society.

Veterinarians' predominant ethical issue is our inability to diagnose or treat a health problem because a pet owner is unwilling to comply with medical advice or is unable to pay for services to be rendered.

Owners who elect to euthanize their pets for convenience sake also place an enormous ethical burden on veterinarians. A practitioner ought to recognize when euthanasia is not a morally acceptable option and when providing a good death is the most compassionate choice—and must be able to educate clients about the difference. Animal neglect is another issue of legal and moral concern in which veterinarians must similarly educate uninformed clients.

Lastly, owners often demand unwarranted cosmetic surgeries that may harm an animal. Some veterinarians will provide these surgeries without comment, others will perform only certain procedures, while others will refuse such surgeries under all circumstances.


Siobhán M. Baggot, DVM, MAIS
These are but a few of the ethical problems companion-animal veterinarians face daily. Although the Veterinarian's Oath provides a framework within which to practice veterinary medicine, in dealing with such problems practitioners need to set their own moral compasses to provide ethical guidance as animal advocates.

Siobhán M. Baggot, DVM, MAIS
The Ark Veterinary Clinic
4965 Barger Drive
Eugene, OR 97402