Attitudes of Austrian veterinarians towards euthanasia in small animal practice: impacts of age and gender on views on euthanasia
Hartnack, S.; Springer, S.; Pittavino, M.; Grimm, H.
Bmc Veterinary Research 12: 26
Euthanasia of pets has been described by veterinarians as "the best and the worst" of the profession. The most commonly mentioned ethical dilemmas veterinarians face in small animal practice are: limited treatment options due to financial constraints, euthanizing of healthy animals and owners wishing to continue treatment of terminally ill animals. The aim of the study was to gain insight into the attitudes of Austrian veterinarians towards euthanasia of small animals. This included assessing their agreement with euthanasia in exemplified case scenarios, potentially predicted by demographic variables (e.g. gender, age, working in small animal practice, employment, working in a team, numbers of performed euthanasia). Further describing the veterinarians' agreement with a number of different normative and descriptive statements, including coping strategies. A questionnaire with nine euthanasia scenarios, 26 normative and descriptive statements, and demographic data were sent to all members of the Austrian Chamber of Veterinary Surgeons (n = 2478). In total, 486 veterinarians answered sufficiently completely to enable analyses. Responses were first explored descriptively before being formally analysed using linear regression and additive Bayesian networks - a multivariate regression methodology - in order to identify joint relationships between the demographic variables, the statements and each of the nine euthanasia scenarios. Mutual dependencies between the demographic variables were found, i.e. female compared to male veterinarians worked mostly in small animal practice, and working mostly in small animal practice was linked to performing more euthanasia per month. Gender and age were found to be associated with views on euthanasia: female veterinarians and veterinarians having worked for less years were more likely to disagree with euthanasia in at least some of the convenience euthanasia scenarios. The number of veterinarians working together was found to be the variable with the highest number of links to other variables, demographic as well as ethical statements. This highlights the role of a team potentially providing support in stressful situations. The results are useful for a better understanding of coping strategies for veterinarians with moral stress due to euthanasia of small animals.