Veterinary Ethics: Life and Death Decisions in the Real World
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Marc Bekoff, Psychology Today - Animal Emotions
May 2017

Doing what is "right" isn't always doing what is easy.

The need for reflective practice in veterinary medicine.

Veterinarians are often faced with extremely difficult choices ranging from whether or not to do surgery to assessing the quality of life of an individual animal to deciding when it's time to "put them to sleep."

A new book called Veterinary Ethics: Navigating Tough Cases edited by veterinarians Dr. Siobhan Mullan and Dr. Anne Fawcett is a landmark book that should be required reading for all students of veterinary medicine and practicing veterinarians. The book's description reads as follows:

What should a vet do when a client can't pay for their animal's treatment? Or when asked their opinion on the killing of wildlife for disease control? Or when observing an animal welfare problem whilst off duty? Ethical problems are an everyday part of life for veterinarians, but it can be difficult to combine personal values with professional conduct. Veterinary Ethics presents a range of ethical scenarios that veterinarians and other allied animal health professionals may face in practice. The scenarios discussed are not only exceptional cases with potentially significant consequences, but often less dramatic everyday situations. The responses to these ethical problems are from practising veterinarians and acknowledged world experts in animal welfare and ethics. The advice given is thorough and detailed, covering different eventualities, the ethical knots and dilemmas, the personal feelings of those involved, as well as objective recommendations on ethical decision making and, where relevant, guidance from veterinary governing bodies and the law. The advice is framed in the form of veterinary life in the real world, not necessarily an ideal world. As well as practical guidance, the book takes a step back and explores the different philosophical arguments and standpoints and the resultant solutions and problems of each approach, examining the background and relationship between different philosophical schools of thought, ethics and veterinary care. The book strives to present decision making in response to ethical problems as transparently as possible, employing a range of ethical frameworks. The book also challenges the reader about their own decision making in given situations, what factors to consider and how they would achieve certain outcomes.

Clearly, practicing veterinary medicine can be both enjoyable and very rewarding, and also extremely challenging. Veterinarians are not only interacting with their nonhuman animal (animal) clients, but also with their humans. And, this mixture of beings can present serious questions that demand informed answers and decisions.

Marc Bekoffís latest books are Jasperís Story: Saving Moon Bears (with Jill Robinson); Ignoring Nature No More: The Case for Compassionate Conservation; Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed: The Fascinating Science of Animal Intelligence, Emotions, Friendship, and Conservation; Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence; The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson); and The Animalsí Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age (with Jessica Pierce). Canine Confidential: An Insiderís Guide to the Best Lives For Dogs and Us will be published in early 2018. Marc's homepage is

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