AVMA delegates approve changes to veterinary medicine ethics policy


The AVMA House of Delegates voted to approve revisions to the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics

Photo: Andrey Popov/Adobe Stock

Photo: Andrey Popov/Adobe Stock

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) House of Delegates (HOD) recently passed new revisions to the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics (PVME) during their yearly HOD session in Austin, Texas, which took place during the 2024 AVMA Convention.1 The PVME serves as forward-thinking code of ethical conduct that all veterinarians are expected to follow.2

The updated document contains 3 core principles that serve as aspirational goals for the veterinary profession. According to an AVMA news release, these principles are elemental to the PVME. These principles are1:

  • Stewardship: Veterinarians have an ethical responsibility to alleviate suffering, promote health, and act in the best interests of their patients in balance with the interests of their clients, the environment, and the public.
  • Integrity: Veterinarians have an ethical responsibility to be honest and truthful in all interactions with clients, patients, and their community.
  • Respect: Veterinarians have an ethical responsibility to demonstrate respect to all patients, clients, and members of their community, including self and professional colleagues.

The AVMA House Advisory Committee (HAC) and the Board of Directors (BOD) advised delegates to approve the revised PVME, according to the release. The goal behind the revision was to clarify certain aspects of the document. In its proposal, the BOD stated that the PVME had been “restructured to improve clarity and usability.”1

The original document was comprised of 3 different sections2:

  1. Principles
  2. The principles with supporting annotations
  3. Useful terms

The first section consisted of 9 principles that veterinarians should abide by. For example, the 2nd principle reads: “A veterinarian shall provide competent veterinary medical care under the terms of a veterinarian- client-patient relationship (VCPR), with compassion and respect for animal welfare and human health.”2 Meanwhile, the second section elaborated on the 9 principles, such as circumstances under which a veterinarian might terminate a VCPR. The 3rd section contained definitions to terms such as ‘dispensing’, ‘legend drug’, ‘impaired veterinarian’, ‘receiving veterinarian’, and more.2

The updated document revised some of its wording and included new sections and sentences. One of the new additions to the PVME is a code of conduct that contains another 3 sections: to provide competent medical care, prioritize patient welfare in balance with client needs and public safety, and uphold standards of professionalism.1

Moreover, in the “principles with supporting annotations” section, under the supporting annotations for the 2nd principle, the wording was revised to include the scenario: "The client requested the veterinarian to act in an unethical manner."1

Another revision, located under the ‘useful terms’ section, consisted of clarification on how to refer to veterinary specialists. The updated PVME now reads: “The terms ‘board eligible’ or ‘board qualified’ are misleading and should not be used by veterinarians.”1


1. Nolen RS. House passes updated ethics document, new transport policy. American Veterinary Medical Association. June 23, 2024. Accessed June 26, 2024. https://www.avma.org/news/house-passes-updated-ethics-document-new-transport-policy?utm_source=delivra&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=todays-headlines-news

2. Principles of veterinary medical ethics of the AVMA. American Veterinary Medical Association. Accessed June 26, 2024. https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/avma-policies/principles-veterinary-medical-ethics-avma

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