Ethics in Small Animal Practice
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Describe the concept of animals having intrinsic moral value
If animals have a mental life and feelings e.g. if they can feel pain, interests flow from these feelings e.g. the interest in avoiding pain. Therefore, others are obliged to respect these interests.
Do animals matter as much as humans? Describe the following views on the above question: a) equal consideration b) sliding scale
- a) Animals deserve equal consideration to humans e.g. a cat's suffering matters just as much as a human's suffering
- b) Humans deserve full, equal consideration, but other animals deserve consideration in proportion to their cognitive, emotional and social complexity e.g. a monkey's suffering is less than a human's but more than a rat's.
Name and describe the three ethical animal welfare frameworks?
- Contractarian - only humans are morally relevant, animals have no moral status and so do not create moral duties
- Utilitarian - animals deserve equal moral consideration. When making a decision animal welfare consequences must be considered as well as potential benefits (for both animals and humans) to try and achieve the greatest good for the greatest number (cost-benefit)
- Animal rights - fixed ethical rules limit our treatment of animals i.e. individual rights cannot be violated to benefit others
Describe the a) garage mechanic model b) paediatrician model
- a) Owner decides on treatment for animal, as the vet you do as you are asked within the law and professional boundaries and charge for your services
- b) Vet decides on treatment (with input from the owner). As the vet you can reject requests which are not in the animal's interests. It is a joint decision making process based on communication and education of the owner, but they ultimately have legal power.
List some justifications for killing animals
- For food
- Pest control
True or false: there is quantity of life protection in the legislation?
False - anyone, owner or vet, can kill an animal as long as it is done humanely
List the arguments that death is not a harm
- Only quality matters - we must only ensure they live a good life for as long as it lasts
- Nature of animal consciousness - animals cannot perceive or anticipate death and they do not have any long term plans/hopes/desires that can be thwarted by death
- Animals are replaceable, in a way humans are not
List the arguments that death is a harm
- Lost opportunities - death prevents valuable opportunities that continued life would give
- Right to life - animals have a strong moral claim to continued life regardless of their ability to perceive death
- Indirect consequences - if animals are thought of as replaceable this may negatively affect the way they are treated
Define the following a) Absolutely justified euthanasia b) Contextually justified euthanasia c) Non-justified euthanasia
- a) Euthanasia was the best option for the animal
- b) There were better options available for the animal but circumstances meant they could not be taken. Therefore euthanasia was the best available option
- c) Better alternatives were available than euthanasia
List the steps involved in ethical decision making
Prepare, describe the options genuinely available, identify factual influences, identify ethical influences, weight the influences, identify the best option, satisfy pre-requisites, act, reflect on the decision and outcomes, prepare for next time
How can you prepare for an ethical dilemma?
- Identify potential dilemmas you might face
- Identify overeaching principles you endorse/wish to follow
- Communicate your position to others
- Identify other stakeholder's ethical views
- Acknowledge any biases you may experience
Give examples of who influences may relate to apart from you the vet
How can you weight the influences to decide which is the most important?
Assign each influence a number from 0-10, where 0 = unimportant/should be ignored and 10 = should absolutely never be breached, very important
Give examples of pre-requisites that may have to be met before you can act
- Getting informed consent
- Medicines legislation
- Health and safety requirements
- Implement measures to ensure no other animals are put at risk
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