Ethical Dilemmas In Veterinary Medicine: The Special Case of Centaurs

Though rare, especially outside the Great Plains, centaurs present the large animal veterinarian with ethical dilemmas so far unresolved by professional authorities and the lawyers they rely on. Thus the usual disclaimer that what follows is intended solely as a pedagogical exercise.

Today’s case study concerns a multi-vehicle accident near Omaha, Nebraska involving a horse trailer carrying a 17 year-old centaur. He is said to have suffered compound fractures to both rear legs in the collision.

On arriving, you’re told by police that the driver employed by the centaur spoke no English, fled the scene — possibly to avoid inquiries into his immigration status — and was probably too young anyway to be the centaur’s parent or legal guardian. Despite the misleading information provided by the officer, you’re quite aware that Nebraska law recognizes eleven as the age of medical consent among centaurs, owing both to recognition of the rapidity with which they mature, and legislative pressure exerted by the Great Plains Cosmetic Surgery Association, whose members depend on centaur vanity for their largess.

Thus informed, you approach the centaur, who is writhing in pain. Your examination confirms compound fractures in both rear legs. These are injuries of the kind that would demand a mercy killing in the horses you usually treat. Alas, you haven’t any lethal injection serum on hand. Moreover, despite the universal insistence among centaurs that they are singular creatures who are both horse and human, this particular patient, when confronted with your pump action Remington 870, begins to whinny, “Nay! Nay! I am human! I only am human!”

Using statutes and case law from relevant jurisdictions, the guidelines of the American Veterinary Medical Association, and interviews with practicing doctors, veterinarians, and horse whisperers, please detail your course of action. For the purposes of this exercise, ignore any conflicts of interest that would result in recusing yourself were this situation to arise in real life, such as holding stock in a glue factory, a paintbrush store, or a quaint chain of semi-authentic Belgian restaurants.