The Five Freedoms

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With respect to veterinary therapies, there are a number of ethical principles that constitute the foundation for all treatment considerations.

The first of these principles is the most important one, namely that the needs of the animal must always come first. The next principle is an ancient medical principle: above all, do no harm. Another principle is that the veterinarian is, first and foremost, the patient's advocate. Except in rare instances where public welfare supersedes this expectation, the veterinarian must champion the interests of the animal and uphold an ethical code of behaviour. The final principle is that the veterinarian's responsibility to provide every opportunity for the patient to enjoy the 'Five Freedoms'[1], namely:

  • Freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition
  • Freedom from physical and thermal discomfort
  • Freedom from fear and distress
  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease
  • Freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour as long as it does not cause injury to them or others

There is no acceptable rationalization to avoid delivery of effective pain management at any time necessary in the lives of patients. At the end of their lives, when euthanasia is considered, pain and suffering by the animal must be alleviated in every situation.

References

  1. Folger, WR & Scherk, MS (2010)The veterinarian's responsibilities at the end of a cat's life. JFMS 12:365-366