Paycheck Vs. Personal Ethics



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Someone I know, although not in the veterinary profession, is struggling with this dilemma—is the acquisition of a paycheck worth sacrificing your personal ethics? We all have standards, what some call morals, a sense of what is right and wrong. So what do you do when you discover the people at the top of the organizational chart are lying about the services they provide, services that YOU provide as their employee?

It’s difficult to try to ascertain a company’s scruples during the job interview process, and often you are too busy trying to sell yourself in that short period of time. Once we land the job, we find out so much more about the operation of the company. So again, what do we do when we discover they are deceitful to their customers or clients, or in our profession, practice medicine below what we consider the current standard?

The answer to this question often depends on a number of factors: how badly we want THAT job, how badly we NEED that job, if we leave can we find other employment, and if we stay, can we live with our conscience? It also depends on who is providing the deceptive services. Is it someone else completely, or must you also engage in the deceit? Or is someone else doing the deed, but your name is involved in the process? Finally, do you risk your own reputation or professional license, or become exposed to moral or legal repercussions, if the deceit is unveiled?

These are difficult questions both to answer and to factor into making your decision. Some answers will be weighed heavier than others in your decision. But whether you admit it or not, you are making a decision even if you stay and decide to pretend nothing wrong is happening. Ignorance may be bliss in this situation, because you can’t ignore what you know.

The best case scenario is to determine the company’s standards before you accept the position. You can ask certain pointed questions about the services they provide, and some of these questions may be ones you would want to ask: do you provide “convenience” euthanasia? Do you provide inhalant anesthesia for surgical procedures? Do you place an intravenous catheter for every anesthetic procedure? Do you perform elective surgeries such as ear trims and declaws? There could certainly be other questions that are important in your opinion, but regardless it is a good idea to come to the job interview prepared to ask those questions that matter to you.

As mentioned, sometimes once you’re hired you discover operational issues that would not have made your interview list of questions. Before jumping to the conclusion that the practice owner or management team are aware of the situation and condone the action, it is a good idea to have a private meeting to discuss the issue. You may discover they condemn the action and were unaware. If they are aware, then a discussion about current standards of medicine in practice could follow. These are not easy discussions to start, but the information you obtain may be imperative to making a final decision of whether to stay or go.

At the end of the day, you must be able to look at yourself in the mirror…be sure you respect the person looking back at you!

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