Teaching Veterinary Ethics: The Case of Study Cases

Date: 13th June 2018

Time: 1:00-3:00 pm

Venue: Banquet Hall (Festsaal), University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna


Kerstin Weich (Messerli Research Institute, Vienna)

Martin Huth (Messerli Research Institute, Vienna)

Corresponding Organizer:

Martin Huth (Martin.Huth(at)vetmeduni.ac.at)

Context and Aims:

Teaching Veterinary Ethics is a field of high topicality and urgency since ethics is increasingly implemented and significant in the curricula of universities for veterinary medicine all over Europe and beyond. 

Hence, the questions of content, methodology, and learning outcomes have become crucial in several ways. At the intersection of these three fundamental issues we find the study case that provides an access to a specific content (e.g. a clinical case or a certain policy in veterinary public health structure of decision-making, conceptualization of health, etc.), builds a core methodology of didactics, and frames learning outcomes. The experience that concrete cases are essential in teaching veterinary ethics is widespread. However, it seems crucial to raise the awareness of tacit implications of study cases. As Thomas Kuhn (2012) (and, drawing on Kuhn, Bernard Rollin, cf. 1998) has shown, the use of “exemplars” is highly efficient since it makes cascades of explanation superfluous. But it also contributes to the reiteration of implicit paradigms and to the hidden curriculum (cf. Withcomb 2015) and, hence, sheds light on particular questions and accounts while concealing others. More in general, already Wittgenstein was cautionary with respect to the use of one-sided examples that shape perspectives all to clear (Wittgenstein 1996).

Our concern is to reflect upon and discuss the nature and the use of study cases in the following respects:

Key Questions:

  • How should study cases be used in teaching veterinary ethics?
  • How can a singular case provide access to generalizing ethical reflection? 
  • What are the particular strengths of study cases? Where do we face limits of study cases?
  • How can one avoid the danger of being intrusive by the use of study cases? How is a broadening of the perspective possible?
  • How can one raise the awareness of the strengths and limits or pitfalls of the use of study cases? 

Key Words:

Study cases, veterinary ethics, didactics, paradigm, hidden curriculum

Target Group:

The main focus of the workshop is on people involved in teaching veterinary ethics but also open to participants interested in other fields of (applied) ethics and its didactics. The event will start off with a short input by the chairs and will then be structured in an interactive way.