The Veterinarian's Oath

The Veterinarian's Oath
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  • 0:01 The Veterinarian's Oath
  • 0:40 The Full Oath
  • 1:32 Key Terms in the Oath
  • 4:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson will define the veterinarian's oath and go over its key points and phrases as they pertain to legal and ethical standards in veterinary medicine.

The Veterinarian's Oath

Long ago, a Greek physician known as Hippocrates probably wrote what is now known as the Hippocratic Oath, an oath physicians take to abide by certain rules, ethical standards, and so forth. The original oath has since been revised for modern standards, but many of its key principles still hold. Veterinarians take a different oath, called the Veterinarian's Oath, which is an oath veterinarians take to use their skills and knowledge for the benefit of animal health, animal welfare, public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge. We'll discuss it in full in this lesson.

The Full Oath

The full Veterinarian's Oath, as outlined by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), was adopted in 1954. It has since undergone several revisions and currently reads as follows:

'Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge. I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.'

Key Terms in the Oath

As you can tell by that, the Veterinarian's Oath emphasizes a veterinarian's many obligations. First, there's the obvious obligation to the animal kingdom; that means protecting the health of animals, preventing disease, advocating for animals, and minimizing their pain and suffering.

To do this to the best of one's ability, a veterinarian should work at or above the appropriate standards of care. Working below the accepted standards of practice and medical care, whether knowingly or not, is known as malpractice. Malpractice shouldn't be confused with negligence, which is a failure to perform what is necessary. For example, performing an unnecessary surgery is malpractice, but a failure to revise a diagnosis is seen as negligence.

The oath further means a veterinarian must be a proponent of animal welfare, the protection of animals from inhumane treatment and neglect and follow the principles of veterinary medical ethics, such as those outlined by the AVMA. These principles of veterinary medical ethics include things such as:

  • Always considering the needs of the patient first
  • Being honest and professional
  • Providing competent medical care and respect for animal and human health

Which brings me to my next point. The oath also upholds the need for veterinarians to be part of public health, which is the science of protecting community health by preventing disease, through health education, by controlling communicable disease, and so forth. By that, the oath implies veterinarians are responsible for the promotion of human health in addition to animal health. This can take shape in many ways. It could be as 'simple' as informing a client that an animal must be treated for a certain parasite lest their child loses their vision as a result of it, or it could mean being part of a big research team working on vaccines that will eventually protect human health.

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