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Justifying Euthanasia: A Qualitative Study of Veterinarians' Ethical Boundary Work of "Good" Killing

By M. J. Bubeck

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Abstract

(1) Veterinarians are regularly required to euthanize their "objects of care" as part of their work, which distinguishes them from other healthcare professionals. This paper examines how veterinarians navigate the ethical tensions inherent in euthanasia, particularly the collision between the routine practice of killing animals within their profession and the broader social and moral implications. (2) Using the sociological concept of ethical boundary work as a theoretical framework, this research observes how veterinarians draw boundaries by positioning their euthanasia practices on the ethical "good" spectrum. A grounded theory study of 17 qualitative interviews with veterinarians was conducted. (3) The findings highlight differences in ethical boundary work within veterinary medicine, particularly in the distinction between farm animals and companion animals. Economic and emotional reasoning play differing roles in explanation and justification. Ethical boundary work is a tool for distinguishing normative frameworks in different areas of veterinary medicine. (4) In conclusion, veterinarians grapple with the realities of an imperfect world and often rely on boundary work to assert diverse interests and navigate multiple contexts. By exploring the complexities of ethical boundary work, this study contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of the moral landscape within veterinary practice.

Publication Title Animals (Basel)
Volume 13
Issue 15
ISBN/ISSN 2076-2615 (Print)2076-2615
DOI 10.3390/ani13152515
Author Address Faculty of Health Sciences Brandenburg, Universit├Ąt Potsdam, 14469 Potsdam, Germany.
Additional Language English
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Tags
  1. Companion
  2. Ethics
  3. Euthanasia
  4. Farm animals
  5. Human-animal relationships
  6. open access
  7. Qualitative Research
  8. sociology
Badges
  1. open access