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“Patients’ interests first, but … ”–Austrian Veterinarians’ Attitudes to Moral Challenges in Modern Small Animal Practice

1
Unit of Ethics and Human-Animal-Studies, Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Medical University of Vienna, University of Vienna, 1210 Vienna, Austria
2
Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen, 1958 Frederiksberg C, Denmark
3
Department of Veterinary and Animal Science, University of Copenhagen, 1870 Frederiksberg C, Denmark
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(5), 241; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9050241
Received: 7 April 2019 / Revised: 25 April 2019 / Accepted: 13 May 2019 / Published: 15 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Companion Animals)
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Simple Summary

Hip arthroplasty, heart valve replacement, dialysis, and specialties such as oncology, cardiology and neurology are becoming standard in modern small animal practice, which, in some respects, is not far behind the field of human medicine. This focus group study of veterinarians (n = 32) examined the effect of these advances and the challenges they introduce. The study shows that while modern diagnostics and therapies deliver benefits in patient care, they also add complexities to decision-making. Although the veterinarians participating in the study were aware of their duty to act in the best interests of the animal, their decisions were highly dependent on factors such as the client’s financial background and the emotional bond between client and animal, as well as the veterinarian’s place of work, and level and field of specialization, and certain economic aspects of the practice. The overall conclusion is that veterinarians are increasingly torn between patients’ interests, medical feasibility and factors related to the client, the veterinarian, and professional colleagues. The findings also suggest that services are not only oriented towards the provision of medical care in a strict medical sense. On top of this, veterinarians need to deal with various expectations and wishes of clients which influence their decision-making. As it will be shown, factors like the possibility of referring patients to specialist veterinarians or prompt diagnostic results influence their decision-making.

Abstract

Small veterinary practice is experiencing steady improvement in diagnostics and therapies which enable veterinarians to offer evermore advanced medical care for their patients. This focus group study of veterinarians (n = 32) examined the impact of these improvements and the potential challenges they introduce in small animal practice. It shows that while advanced diagnostics and therapies deliver benefits in patient care, they also add complexities to decision-making. Although the veterinarians participating in the study were aware of their duty to act in the best interests of the animal, their decisions were highly dependent on factors such as the client’s financial background and the emotional bond between client and animal, as well as the veterinarian’s place of work, and level and field of specialization, and certain economic aspects of the practice. The overall conclusion is that small animal veterinarians are increasingly torn between serving the best interests of the animal, medical feasibility and contextual factors related to the client, the veterinarian, and professional colleagues. Further, the findings suggest that services are not only oriented towards the provision of medical care in a strict medical sense. On top of this, veterinarians need to deal with various expectations and wishes of clients which influence their decision-making. As it will be shown, factors like the possibility of referring patients to specialist veterinarians or prompt diagnostic results influence their decision-making. View Full-Text
Keywords: advanced veterinary medicine; small animals; focus group study; veterinary medical ethics advanced veterinary medicine; small animals; focus group study; veterinary medical ethics
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Springer, S.; Sandøe, P.; Bøker Lund, T.; Grimm, H. “Patients’ interests first, but … ”–Austrian Veterinarians’ Attitudes to Moral Challenges in Modern Small Animal Practice. Animals 2019, 9, 241.

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