In the U.S., qualified veterinarians are required to adhere to an ethical code of conduct laid out by the American Veterinary Medical Association, called the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics (PVME). Understanding the ethical code that veterinarians work to can help pet-parents understand some of the difficult recommendations that vets make when treating sick or injured animals.
Caring for sick and injured animals can raise a number of ethical dilemmas for both veterinarians and loving pet owners. If you are faced with difficult recommendations from your pet's veterinarian, it may be reassuring to understand that vets are required to follow a set of principles laid out by the American Veterinary Medical Association whenever they deal with animal patients, their owners, or even the community at large.
Here are the current American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) ethical principles laid out in the PVME:
- A veterinarian shall be influenced only by the welfare of the patient, the needs of the client, the safety of the public, and the need to uphold the public trust vested in the veterinary profession, and shall avoid conflicts of interest or the appearance thereof.
- A veterinarian shall provide competent veterinary medical clinical care under the terms of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR), with compassion and respect for animal welfare and human health.
- A veterinarian shall uphold the standards of professionalism, be honest in all professional interactions, and report veterinarians who are deficient in character or competence to the appropriate entities.
- A veterinarian shall respect the law and also recognize a responsibility to seek changes to laws and regulations which are contrary to the best interests of the patient and public health.
- A veterinarian shall respect the rights of clients, colleagues, and other health professionals, and shall safeguard medical information within the confines of the law.
- A veterinarian shall continue to study, apply, and advance scientific knowledge, maintain a commitment to veterinary medical education, make relevant information available to clients, colleagues, the public, and obtain consultation or referral when indicated.
- A veterinarian shall, in the provision of appropriate patient care, except in emergencies, be free to choose whom to serve, with whom to associate, and the environment in which to provide veterinary medical care.
- A veterinarian shall recognize a responsibility to participate in activities contributing to the improvement of the community and the betterment of public health.
- A veterinarian should view, evaluate, and treat all persons in any professional activity or circumstance in which they may be involved, solely as individuals on the basis of their own personal abilities, qualifications, and other relevant characteristics.