Breaking Down Ethics and Equine Medicine

Whether a veterinarian is actively practicing or working in research, ethics play a central role in his or her decision-making.
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Whether a veterinarian is actively practicing or working in research, ethics play a central role in his or her decision-making. Every individual brings their own belief system about what is right and wrong to the table and, even with clear convictions, sometimes doing the right thing is not always the easiest path. California practitioner David Ramey, DVM, reflected on the nature of ethics in regard to equine practice at the 2013 American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Convention, held Dec. 7-11 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Ramey said good ethical conduct is important for protecting the public’s best interest and for ensuring that people aren't taken advantage of. Additionally, professional organizations typically maintain an ethical standard to which members are expected to adhere, and these tenets protect ethical professionals from being undermined by those who don’t follow ethical credos.

“ 'He who walks in integrity walks securely,' ” said Ramey, “is a philosophy that dates back to biblical times.” A person’s ethical core defines his or her conduct, he continued. “If it was easy to be ethical, then there wouldn’t be any discussion.”

Despite many individuals sharing the same values, they often interpret those values differently. For example, veterinary practice is a business, and veterinarians need to make a living and support their families, while also putting financial resources back into their practices so they can offer more and improved services. Yet, he said the public's No. 1 concern regarding veterinarians is the cost of services. Striking a balance where the horse, the client, and the veterinary practice all benefit can be a difficult prospect. Additionally, both parties want what's best for animal, Ramey explained, but society's obligation tends to be toward equine welfare rather than veterinarians' needs

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Written by:

Nancy S. Loving, DVM, owns Loving Equine Clinic in Boulder, Colorado, and has a special interest in managing the care of sport horses. Her book, All Horse Systems Go, is a comprehensive veterinary care and conditioning resource in full color that covers all facets of horse care. She has also authored the books Go the Distance as a resource for endurance horse owners, Conformation and Performance, and First Aid for Horse and Rider in addition to many veterinary articles for both horse owner and professional audiences.

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