Veterinary Ethics

It’s hard to believe I am already halfway through my first semester of veterinary school.  Simultaneously, it is equally as hard to believe that I’ve only been in Texas for just over two months.  With all of the new information and tasks assigned to us on a daily basis, my class begins to lay the foundation for our veterinary career, and time seems to race while also standing still. While the classwork has been a bit of a struggle for me, I am continually reminded why it is I am seeking a veterinary degree. Whether it is the opportunity to practice administering a physical exam, one of the clinicians taking the time to bring students on patient rounds, or participating in herd work, there are many chances to get practical experience and remind yourself why you are studying hard every day.

For me, the reminder came in the form of an ethics session this past week. The 1VMs stayed late after classes to meet with practicing veterinarians, who came from all over the state of Texas to lead groups of us in a discussion about different ethical issues we may face as members of the veterinary profession. I found this to be an important conversation to have. On a day-to-day basis my classmates and I struggle with the knowledge we need in order to one day make the right decisions that will save an animal’s life. It is difficult to sometimes remember that in addition to being proficient at our jobs, we will also be professionals within a small community. As such, we may be faced with difficult decisions that are not strictly confined to the realms of science or as clear cut as we would like.

As one of the veterinarians who lead my group’s discussion reminded us, veterinary medicine is, at its heart, a people-focused profession. Vets not only need to take care of the patient, but also ensure that the owner comprehends the situation, their options, and the ramifications any potential decisions they make may have. Veterinarians have an obligation to serve their patient, their client, and their community as a whole in the most humane and ethical manner possible. The ethics session was a useful opportunity to discuss issues pressing to the profession that we will one day become members of. It also gave us the opportunity to hear the viewpoints of experienced practitioners who have dealt firsthand with many of the problems we will eventually face. It was a great learning experience and well worth the long day.