Monday, October 20, 2008

Entitlement culture

Long argument with a caller who disagreed with the amount she was charged at our clinic and grandly claimed that, "it's the law that disabled owners can't be charged if their pets need veterinary treatment". 

It is not.

Vets have an ethical obligation to relieve animal suffering under the terms of the oath they swear when they qualify. Unfortunately this doesn't translate into unlimited free treatment for owners who can't afford to pay. If an animal is actually in the surgery and is in pain, no vet will refuse to relieve this, and most will in fact bend over backwards to avoid euthanasia, but at the end of the day vets have to charge an economic fee in order to stay in business.

The PDSA have a strict policy to determine who is poor enough to qualify for help and they limit help to no more than one or two animals per owner. The people who meet their criteria do receive very generous help. 

We have a more flexible approach, but this means our help is spread more thinly and owners are expected to pay at least a third of what the treatment would cost at a private vet. This isn't an entitlement: if our funds run out we can't demand that the government tops them up.

This was a basically good owner (she did seek treatment and she did pay up) who had acquired more animals than she could afford in the belief that if things went wrong someone else would have to deal with it. 

The next step down the scale is the owner who essentially gives up and says, "The vet won't see my pet because I owe them money," and then doesn't do anything about getting treatment. In their mind it's now the vet who is responsible if the animal suffers. 

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