January 15, 2005


 Ethical position statements addressed

Posted Jan. 1, 2005

 At its recent meeting, the Executive Board addressed five existing AVMA position statements that involve ethical issues. The board approved the recommendations from the AVMA Judicial Council, which had conducted five-year reviews of them.

The board reaffirmed the following two position statements.

Product Advertising:

Pet food and other product advertising should not lead the public to believe that most veterinarians, or an association of veterinarians, have approved or recommended its product, and the advertising company should reference the source from which it drew the statement, identify the group of veterinarians responsible for the statement, and make that documentation available for review.
Patenting of Veterinary Medical and Surgical Procedures:

Veterinary medical and surgical procedures, like other activities, should not be patented; and where such patents exist, they should not be enforceable through civil action for damages or injunctive relief so that veterinary medical knowledge, techniques, and procedures may continue to accrue to the benefit of all animals and people. This position is not intended to address patents for medical or biomedical devices or products.

The board approved changing the fifth element of the position statement Prevention and Resolution of Grievances. The fifth element now states as follows:

That each constituent association where feasible have an ethics-grievance committee or a peer-review committee, so that complaints about veterinary service coming to those organizations' attention will be handled promptly in an understanding manner. To provide guidance to associations and individuals, the House of Delegates adopted a Peer Review Procedure Manual which is published in the annual AVMA Directory.

Previously the statement was more forceful that a committee be formed and did not include the language "where feasible."

The board approved a minor change to the position statement Guidelines for Referrals. The statement now defines a referring veterinarian as the veterinarian (or group of veterinarians) who is, at the time of referral, the attending veterinarian. The Judicial Council believes the statement is now in conformance with the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics, Section IV, A: Attending, Consulting and Referring.

Finally, the board deleted part of the Veterinary Degrees position, because it incorrectly stated that although a graduate with a doctorate degree can be referred to with the salutation "Doctor" and can use the degree acronym by his or her veterinary college, he or she must acquire a state license to practice the profession legally in the United States. This statement is not technically accurate, because not all employment opportunities require an individual to be licensed to practice.