PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A new study finds that a majority of veterinarians report widespread “moral distress.”
The study surveyed 889 veterinarians in North America about how they deal and cope with ethical conflicts and moral standards with pet owners and caring for the animals.
“A majority of respondents reported feeling conflict over what care is appropriate to provide. Over 70 percent of respondents felt that the obstacles they faced that prevented them from providing appropriate care caused them or their staff moderate to severe distress. Seventy‐nine percent of participants report being asked to provide care that they consider futile. More than 70 percent of participants reported no training in conflict resolution or self‐care,” the study reads.
The study revealed that nearly 64 percent of vets and their staff felt moderate to severe stress after getting inappropriate requests from owners to euthanize their pets.
Another 69 percent of respondents had moderate to severe amounts of distress of not being able to provide care to an animal they thought was appropriate.
J. Wesley Boyd, the study’s senior author and a bioethicist at Harvard Medical School, told NPR that there’s a connection with the findings and suicide rates for veterinarians.
“My assumption is that the findings from our survey are definitely part of, or even the majority of, the reason why veterinarians have higher-than-average suicide rates,” said Boyd.
Dr. Lisa Moses, a veterinarian at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals-Angell Medical Center and a bioethicist at Harvard Medical School, explained that vets are in a “really difficult” position caring for animals and then being asked to euthanize them.
“We are in the really unenviable, and really difficult, position of caring for patients maybe for their entire lives, developing our own relationships with those animals — and then being asked to kill them,” said Moses.
The study was published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.