Weich, K., & Grimm, H. (2017). Meeting the Patient’s Interest in Veterinary Clinics. Ethical Dimensions of the 21st Century Animal Patient. Food Ethics, 1-14.
The main objective of this paper is to introduce the concept of the “animal patient” to academic debates on animal ethics, veterinary ethics and medical ethics. This move reflects the prioritization of the animal patient in the veterinary profession’s own current ethical self-conception. Our paper contributes to the state of research by analysing the conceptual prerequisites for the constitution and understanding of animals as patients through the lens of two concepts fundamental to the medical field: health and disease. The first section describes, how these concepts are inextricably entangled with the animal’s becoming a patient. The understanding of health and disease, we determine, has a great impact on the actual treatment of animals as patients. We show that a naturalistic perspective on health and disease still prevails in the veterinary field. By contrast, we use a historical study to demonstrate how a socio-historical perspective on animal diseases enriches our understanding of veterinary practice and its ethical dimensions. This perspective will prove not only able to deal with the wide variety of veterinary patients, but also to release underlying normative processes to ethical reflection and research. We elaborate on that assertion by spelling out the constructive dimension between the veterinary gaze and the objects of its experience. The final section brings veterinary medicine’s ethical relationship to the animal patient into the picture. The discipline is guided by an ethical principle of advocacy, defined as the responsibility to recognise and defend the animal patient’s interest in health. Our principle conclusion is that ethical philosophical thinking on interactions between specific notions of health and disease and animal patients makes a substantial contribution to surmounting this moral challenge. As ‘health’ and ‘disease’ determine the options for the articulation of an animal patient’s interest, investigation into the ever-changing and particular conceptualisations of these notions fosters its recognition. We conclude with a prospect resulting from those theoretical insights: meeting the animal patient’s interest could furthermore mean seeking an articulation of the specific interactions between concrete, living animal patients and veterinary concepts.