Veterinary Student Opinions Regarding Ethical Dilemmas Encountered by Veterinarians and the Benefits of Ethics Instruction

Barry Kipperman, Bernard Rollin, Jessica Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Recognizing and addressing ethical conflicts is an emerging concern for veterinarians. Veterinary student opinions (n=284) were surveyed from four schools in the United States regarding ethical dilemmas encountered by veterinarians and the benefits of ethics instruction. The majority of respondents had encountered all clinical scenarios provided which may be associated with ethical dilemmas. The most common ethical dilemma experienced was compromise of patient care due to financial limitations. Students with at least 12 months of experience were more likely to believe that practitioners encounter ethical dilemmas regularly. While 92% of respondents indicated that veterinarians should prioritize patient interests when the interests of clients and patients conflict, 84% of respondents reported that veterinarians most often prioritize client interests. Most (78%) respondents indicated having received training in ethical theories and approaches to address ethical dilemmas. The majority of respondents agreed that they feel better prepared to identify (80%) and address (55%) ethical dilemmas as a result of their ethics training. Most (81%) respondents identified experiencing moral stress in relation to how animals were treated. Only 46% of respondents reported receiving training regarding tools for coping with moral stress. Most (54%) of these respondents agreed that such training would be effective in helping to manage moral stress as a veterinarian. Results suggested that educators should prepare students for the contrast in advocacy preferences they are apt to encounter as they enter practice. It is recommended that ethics training and tools for coping with moral stress should be core components in the veterinary curriculum.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Veterinary Medical Education
Early online date15 May 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 May 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • euthanasia
  • moral action
  • action
  • veterinary ethics
  • animal welfare
  • curriculum

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