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Ethical dilemmas in practice
TB testing protocol


The dilemma in the July/August issue concerned a vet and a new graduate assistant who would soon be starting bovine tuberculosis (TB) testing (In Practice, July/August 2010, volume 32, pages 318–319). The assistant would initially accompany the vet while they carried out TB tests, before going out on his own. Over time, the vet had developed a way of doing the test that was not exactly as defined in the protocol, but which they believed did not affect either its accuracy or its validity. Gareth Enticott commented that a key issue related to the extent to which the reality of work could ever be captured in a standardised protocol. Signing a TB test certificate was an act of certification, and false certification could have serious consequences for one's career. However, despite offering a way of controlling and standardising behaviour, protocols had their limitations in that they rarely covered all eventualities or offered solutions for new problems. A possible way forward would be for senior vets to remind new assistants of the importance of certification and that it was their own responsibility to ensure that rules and protocols were followed. A second solution would be to demonstrate to the assistant the types of informal procedures that were useful when dealing with problems encountered by the protocol. Potentially, a better way forward would be to see the ethics of TB testing as part of a much broader set of relations, and address these collectively rather than focusing on individuals.

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