Animal Studies Bibliography

Self, D. J., Jecker, N. S., Baldwin, D. C., and Shadduck, J. A. 1991. Moral orientations of justice and care among veterinarians entering private practice. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 199(5): 569-573.

In response to the new interest in veterinary medical ethics, studies must be done to determine how best to increase veterinary students' ethical reasoning. Part of this effort must be to establish a baseline for the state of ethical reasoning in the profession now.

Purpose : To describe the moral orientations of young veterinarians just starting their careers. [No hypothesis given.]

Operational definitions : Moral orientation as used by Gilligan (the framework in which a moral problem is perceived--justice or care), measured with the Gilligan Real-Life Conflict and Choice Interview. Three concepts measured: presence (whether the person takes into account justice or care in weighing moral dilemmas), predominance (whether one orientation is used considerably more than the other), and alignment (whether the person uses the orientation in her/his own personal dilemmas).

Findings : 90% of the sample recognized justice issues (presence), but it was predominant in only 45%, and only 35% of subjects were aligned with justice. Only 65% of the sample recognized care, while it was predominant among 45% and 30% were aligned with it. There were nor statistically significant correlations between moral orientation and gender, MCAT scores, age, or GPA. 55% of the moral dilemmas subjects recounted were personal and 45% were related to veterinary concerns. The most common veterinary dilemma subjects discussed was euthanizing a healthy animal. Others included reporting fraud by another vet, performing procedures for which they were not licensed, and dealing with academic cheating. Personal dilemmas reported included tax cheating, drug use, financial problems with friends, helping alcoholic parents, cheating on a spouse, drunk driving, and cheating on a test. The small sample size makes it hard to generalize, but these results can be tested in a larger survey. If we believe justice is the highest moral ideal (following Kohlberg), then it is good that so many vets recognize it but not so good that so many fewer use it predominantly or align themselves with it. If, however, we follow Gilligan and see care as the best type of moral reasoning, vets as weak in that many don't even recognize such concerns, and fewer use them. If we combine the two orientations, vets show even more poorly. Only 55% recognized justice and care together, only 10% gave neither predominance, and 30% were personally aligned with the combination. Although there was no statistically significant relationship between orientation and gender, the direction of the data support Gilligan's findings that men are predominantly justice oriented and women are predominantly care oriented. Further research also needs to identify other moral orientations, since 35% of the sample aligned with neither justice nor care. Issues that may be at work in the moral decision of these vets might include benevolence, obedience to authority, professional honor, compassion, nurturance to animals, and duties to owners vs animals (572). These issues are important because moral reasoning has been found to be related to education and professional competence, as well as to gender, a significant fact in the face of the feminization of the profession.

Sample/population sampled : 20 vets (10 male, 10 female) between vet school graduation and the start of their first jobs, participating as unpaid volunteers.



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