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The Society for Veterinary Medical Ethics
 

                  A HISTORY OF SOCIETY FOR VETERINARY MEDICAL ETHICS

                                                        IN THE 20TH CENTURY

                                                                            by

                                               Albert S. Dorn, DVM, MS, Dip ACVS

                                                               Professor Emeritus

                                                     College of Veterinary Medicine

                                                           University of Tennessee

INTRODUCTION

Veterinary Ethics has always been an important and integral part of the veterinary profession. What makes veterinary medicine a true profession, as opposed to a trade or just another occupation, is the endorsement of fundamental ethical values and the desire to make goodwill as well as technical competence part of the professional mission.  These values are encouraged and  supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and state and local veterinary associations and organizations.

The AVMA is the cornerstone of official veterinary ethics and this professional association articulates and applies ethical standards of the profession through the Judicial Council, the chief regulatory arm of the association.  The Judicial Council consists of 5 members elected by the House of Delegates, and has jurisdiction on all questions of veterinary medical ethics.  Although the Judicial Council periodically makes opinions and decisions known to the profession through regular and annual reports, there has been little or no outreach to the entire profession on the functions of this council.  Until recently, no forum or venue existed to inform the profession about decisions by the Judicial Council and to discuss and debate changing attitudes about veterinary ethics. Fortunately, over the past few years, meetings, symposia, newsletters, electronic media, books and other communications strictly devoted to the topic of veterinary ethics have been emerging.  The Society for Veterinary Medical Ethics (SVME) has been extremely important in facilitating discussions and communications about ethics and value issues to the entire veterinary profession.

EDUCATION AND VETERINARY ETHICS

All veterinary colleges have different courses on veterinary ethics as part of the professional curriculum.  The AVMA Council of Education has required ethics training or course work as part of the professional curricula, and the most common format is a course often called  Business, Ethics and  Jurisprudence.  The College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee (UT), founded in 1974, was somewhat unique, in that the original professional curriculum was only 3 years in length.  This 3-year program resulted in a concentrated curriculum, but with a considerable amount of flexibility in course structure.  One of the courses in the new curriculum at UT was entitled the Art of Veterinary Medicine.  This course was developed by Hyram Kitchen, a department head and later dean of the veterinary college.  This course included a number of topics such as Ethical and Value Issues, and the this course was taught by a variety of faculty members from all disciplines in the curriculum. The purpose of this course was to introduce a variety of required topics other than the usual hard science of veterinary medicine.

Periodically, the AVMA and the Council of Education has sponsored conferences and symposia at different veterinary colleges.  The purpose of these AVMA Educational Symposia was the discuss and formulate policies on new and emerging topics facing the veterinary profession, and how these topics could be introduced into the veterinary curriculum. Some topics from previous symposia included Employees and Veterinary Technicians, Problem-Oriented Veterinary Records and Pre-veterinary Qualifications.  Often, the decisions and conclusions from these symposia would influence the professional veterinary curricula for many years into the future.

On June 28 - 30, 1982, the 8th Veterinary Medical Educational Symposium met at UT in Knoxville, and title of this symposium was Ethical and Value Issues in Veterinary Education.  The Chair of this symposium was Dean Hyram Kitchen, who developed the veterinary curriculum at UT.  Some of the topics discussed were the human-animal bond, reverence for animals, humane slaughter, and teaching ethics in the professional veterinary curriculum.  One result of this meeting was the development of Ethics Rounds, a method of teaching ethical issues in a veterinary curriculum.  Ethics Rounds were introduced at the UT College of Veterinary Medicine and became part of the curriculum for many years, with faculty from a variety of disciplines participating in this program. Ethics Rounds were also introduced at other veterinary colleges.

AVMA JUDICIAL COUNCIL  

In 1990, I was approached by the Tennessee members of the AVMA House of Delegates to run as a candidate for the upcoming vacancy on the Judicial Council.  These individuals were aware of the educational program on veterinary ethics at the University of Tennessee, and believed that

I could make a contribution to the Judicial Council, because of experience in teaching ethical and value issues in the curriculum.

After my candidacy was announced, I consulted with a number of colleagues who had secured council positions, and they suggested organizing a campaign for this council vacancy.  Part of the campaign would be to contact the members of the AVMA House of Delegates from each state, because they would vote for the council candidates.  Many of these delegates were well-known and influential members of the veterinary profession. Therefore, letters were written and telephone calls were made to delegates to ask for their votes.

The delegate from New Jersey was Robert Shomer, a small animal practitioner form Mahwah, NJ.  Bob Shomer was one of the most senior delegates, having represented the State of New Jersey for over 25 years.  He had been called the “conscience of the house” because of his concerns for ethical and value issues in the profession, and he had introduced and sponsored resolutions to the House of Delegates on a variety topics including ethics, diversity, natural resources, and prohibition of smoking.  He had lectured on ethical and value issues at local, state and national meetings, and was a guest lecturer at veterinary schools including the University of Pennsylvania and Tuskegee University. After corresponding with Bob Shomer about my candidacy, he wrote me a letter asking me to answer a couple of questions about ethical issues.  Interestingly, he was the only delegate to make such a request.  I  responded with written explanations which I thought were appropriate.

While attending the AVMA Meeting in July of 1991 in Seattle, WA, I was pleased to hear that I was elected to the Judicial Council for a 6-year term.  A reception was held at the AVMA meeting for  officers, members of the House of Delegates and council members, and Bob Shomer made a special effort to meet me.  He informed me of his special interest in the Judicial Council, and told me that he voted for me, even though he did not agree all of my answers to the questions he posed.  This indicated to me how Bob Shomer respected a wide variety of opinions, including those with whom he disagreed.

I attended my first meeting of the Judicial Council in the Fall of 1991 in Chicago.  At dinner at the meeting, it was revealed that Bob Shomer was going to relinquish his seat as delegate from NJ and stand as a candidate for Judicial Council.  Needless to say, his election was successful because of wide support from the other members of the House of Delegates.  In July of 1992, while attending the AVMA Meeting in Boston, and the officer and delegate reception, I was able to congratulate Bob Shomer on his successful candidacy.  He stated that he was truly looking forward to his tenure in the Judicial Council.

SOCIETY FOR VETERINARY MEDICAL ETHICS

At the meeting of the Judicial Council in the Fall of 1992, Bob Shomer and I discussed some ethical and value issues over dinner.  He stated that he wished there was an organization or a speciality group or college which could educate and promote ethical and value issues to the veterinary profession.  I agreed that some type of interest group would be extremely useful in promoting ethical and value issues.  I had always been disappointed that the Judicial Council did not reach out to the entire profession about ethical issues, and I stated that one of my roles as a council member was to communicate the importance of the council to the entire profession through educational presentations at meetings and at veterinary colleges.  I also stated my concern that formation of a speciality college would require strict AVMA oversight and approval.  This opinion was based on my experience as a Diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS).  This oversight could result in a lack of flexibility in pursuing the establishment of an ethics organization.  I suggested that we create a society or an interest group allied to the veterinary profession.  For this group to be successful and permanent, this group would need a constitution, membership list, a forum for meetings and discussions, and possibly a newsletter. 

Bob Shomer and I decided to develop an ethics society, and we divided the initial responsibilities and tasks. The choice for a name was the first consideration, and after some thought, we decided to call the group the Society for Veterinary Medical Ethics (SVME).  We both agreed that membership should not be restricted to just veterinarians, but rather to be inclusive to everyone interested in ethical and value issues affecting animals and the veterinary profession.

Because of his long tenure as a member of the AVMA House of Delegates, Bob Shomer had developed a large number of contacts from across the entire profession, and corresponded with many of these people on a regular basis.  To create an initial membership list, he solicited memberships from many of these individuals with special interests in ethics including Jerrold Tannenbaum, Bernard Rollin, Frank Loew, Edwin Andrews, and Bob Phemister. By the summer of 1993 he had sent solicitations for membership to 100 veterinarians and educators.  About 80 individuals, including veterinarians and other interested parties, became initial Charter Members.  Bob Shomer shrewdly suggested that these initial members become “Charter Members” because he believed that this term would add prestige to the new organization.

About that time, Edward Baker from Cornell University, a member of the AVMA Scientific Program Committee, was developing an all-day seminar about ethics at the next AVMA Meeting in San Francisco in July of 1994. The primary speakers would be Jerrold Tannenbaum (Tufts University) and Paul Armstrong (Attorney from NJ).  Ed Baker asked if the SVME would act as a co-sponsor for this seminar.   Unfortunately, Ed Baker passed away before the program was finalized, but the AVMA Program Committee assisted the SVME in completing the details.  Bob Shomer and I agreed to moderate these sessions at the AVMA Meeting.  This event also provided the newly formed Society with a time and place for the first business meeting.

This first business meeting of the Society for Veterinary Medical Ethics (SVME) was held on Sunday, July 10, 1994 in San Francisco.  Bob Shomer chaired this meeting and the history and purpose of the society were explained to the attending members.  Prior to the meeting, work on a constitution was started, and similar documents from a number of constituent organizations were compared.  The result was a draft copy which was edited and later adopted by members at this first meeting.  A membership list was distributed, and the first group of officers were elected from the membership list:

President:                             Robert Shomer        Mahwah, NJ

President-elect:                     Albert S. Dorn Knoxville, TN

Secretary:                             Phillip Bushby Starkville, MS

Treasurer:                             Robert Speth          Pullman, WA

Historian:                              Jerrold Tannenbaum    Arlington, MA

Parliamentarian:                    Richard B. Fink           Hacienda Heights, CA

The new Treasurer, Bob Speth, reported an initial account balance of $239.63, and he proposed the creation of a newsletter.  Plans were made to hold the next meeting of the SVME at the next AVMA Meeting in July of 1995 in Pittsburgh, PA, and the president-elect was charged to develop a program for this meeting.

About this time, John Henton of Knoxville, TN was named the AVMA Meeting Program Chair. He was a  faculty member a the University of Tennessee, and through his help and influence, a half-day session on Veterinary Ethics was scheduled at the next AVMA Meeting.  After a call for papers and correspondence between the officers, a scientific program was developed.  At the same time Bob Speth produced the first Newsletter of the Society which was published in March of 1995.  The second Newsletter was published in June of 1995, just before the upcoming AVMA Meeting in July in Pittsburgh.

The second meeting of the SVME was held on Tuesday, July 11, 1995 at the AVMA Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA.  The educational program was one-half day long and consisted of 3 papers:

Afternoon Session - Ethical and Value Issues - Robert Shomer, Presiding:

Ethics of Species Specialization in Equine Practice

Greg Scroggins, Richmond, VA

Ethics of Discipline Specialization in a Multi-person Practice

Albert S. Dorn, Knoxville, TN


Convenience Euthanasia

Richard Fink, Hacienda Heights, CA

A business meeting of the SVME followed the educational presentations, and a new slate of officers was elected:

President:                     Albert S. Dorn             Knoxville, TN

President-elect:             Jerrold Tannenbaum    Arlington, MA

Secretary:                     Kathleen Potter           Pullman, WA

Treasurer:                     Robert Speth              Pullman, WA

Historian:                      Richard Fink               Hacienda Heights, CA

Parliamentarian:            James Harris              Oakland, CA

Past President:              Robert Shomer      Mahwah, NJ

The Treasurer, Bob Speth, reported an account balance of $791.52 with a few outstanding bills to be paid.  He also reported on the status of the newsletter.  Plans were made to hold the next meeting of the Society at the AVMA Meeting in July of 1996 in Louisville, KY, and the program would be developed by the president and the president-elect.  The third Newsletter was published after the meeting in August of 1995.

The first and second Newsletters of 1996 was published in February and June of that year.  About that time both Bob Shomer and his wife were having serious health issues.  Bob Shomer had serious complications following heart surgery, and he wrote to say that he was required to undergo renal dialysis every other day, and would be unable to attend the next meeting of the SVME in Louisville.

The third meeting of the SVME was held on Tuesday, July 23, 1996 at the AVMA Meeting in Louisville, KY. The educational program for this meeting was scheduled for a full day and consisted of 8 papers:

Morning Session - Ethics of Animal Ownership - Albert S. Dorn, Presiding

Concepts of Quality of Life of Companion Animals

John New, Knoxville, TN

Euthanasia: Linguistic (Mis)Applications to Humans and Animals

Rebecca Bennett, Knoxville, TN

Ethics of Companion Animal Vaccinations

Charles A. Cohen, Branford, CT

Ethical Dilemmas of the Small Animal Practitioner

Richard Fink, Hacienda Heights, CA

Afternoon Session - Ethical Issues in Veterinary Specialization - Jerrold Tannenbaum. Presiding

Ethical Issues in Veterinary Specialization

Jerrold Tannenbaum, Arlington, MA

The Role of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners

Richard R. Brown, West Palm Beach, FL

Laboratory Animal Practice and the AVMA Guidelines for Euthanasia

Lawrence Carbone, Ithaca, NY

Ethical Issues of a Multi-Veterinarian Speciality Practice

Albert S, Dorn


The business meeting of the SVME followed the educational presentations, and a new slate of officers was elected:

President:                             Jerrold Tannenbaum    Arlington, MA

President-elect:                     John R. Boyce West Chicago, IL

Secretary:                             Kathleen Potter           Pullman, WA

Treasurer:                             Robert Speth               Pullman, WA

Historian:                              Lawrence Carbone      Ithaca, NY

Parliamentarian:                    Richard Fink               Hacienda Heights, CA

Past President:                      Albert S. Dorn Knoxville, TN

The Treasurer, Bob Speth, reported an account balance of $791.52 with a few outstanding bills to be paid.  He also reported on the status of filing Form 8718 - User Fee for Exempt Organizations to the IRS.  Plans were made to hold the next meeting of the Society at the AVMA Meeting in July of 1997 in Reno, NV, and the program would be developed by the president and the president-elect.

The next Newsletter (Volume 2 - Number 3) of the SVME was sent in October of 1996.  In this Newsletter, President, Jerry Tannenbaum, wrote an article of feral cats, a summary of a workshop sponsored by the American Humane Association and Cat Fancier’s Association.  This topic was an example of the many important issues that would be recognized in the SVME Newsletters. 

About this time, the treasurer, Bob Speth, received notice from the IRS that the tax-exempt status of the SVME could not be approved.  Apparently, the SVME had to amend the constitution and by-laws to comply with IRS regulations.  The first Newsletter of 1997 (Volume 3 - Number 1) explained the status and approval of the tax-exempt status for the Society.  The next edition of the Newsletter (Volume 3 - Number 2) introduced the plans for a Web Page for the Society and an electronic mailing list.  These communication features would be developed by Ione Smith, a graduate student in Comparative Medicine at the University of Tennessee, and she agreed to become secretary of the SVME.

The second Newsletter of 1997 reported on the passing of Leona Shomer, the wife of the first SVME president, Bob Shomer. Unfortunately, the Newsletter did not report on the serious health issues faced by Bob Shomer at this time.  He was now undergoing renal dialysis on an alternate daily basis, and could not attend future meetings of the SVME.  In spite of his infirmaries, Bob Shomer continued to attend meetings of the AVMA Judicial Council in the Fall of 1996 and the Spring of 1997.  It was during these meetings that the council completed the task of revising the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics with input from Bob Shomer and council chair Al Dorn.

The fourth meeting of the SVME was held on Monday, July 21, 1997 at the AVMA Meeting in Reno, NV.  The theme of the educational program for the entire day was Educating Students and the Public About Ethical Issues in Animal Research and Animal Welfare:

Morning Session - Jerrold Tannenbaum, Presiding:

Opening Minds to Different Views About Animal Use in Research and Teaching

Jerald Silverman, Worcester, MA

Dialog or Diatribe?  Reason vs Rhetoric

Ione Smith, Knoxville, TN


Animal Rights Impact on the Public’s Perception of Animal Research

Susan Paris, Ithaca, NY

Afternoon Session, Jerrold Tannenbaum, Presiding

Benefits of Animal Research for Animals

Richard Simmonds, Reno, NV

The Public Life of Dogs: The Special Role of Dogs in the Animal Welfare Act

Lawrence Carbone, Ithaca, NY

Educating Students and the Public about Animal Rights

Robert Speth, Pullman, WA              

General Discussion by all Program Participants.      

The business meeting of the SVME followed the educational presentations, and a new slate of officers was elected:

President:                        John R. Boyce Bismarck, ND

President-elect:                Robert C. Speth          Pullman, WA

Secretary:                        Ione L. Smith              Knoxville, TN

Treasurer:                        Robert Speth              Pullman, WA

Historian:                         Lawrence Carbone      Ithaca, NY

Parliamentarian:               Richard Fink               Hacienda Heights, CA

Past President:                 Jerrold Tannenbaum    Arlington, MA

President Jerrold Tannenbaum explained the introduction of VETETHIC, the electronic mailing list which will be operated by Ione Smith.  He also stated that Bob Speth would act as both President and Treasurer until a new Treasurer was identified.  Bob Speth stated that he would not continue publishing the Newsletter after November of 1997 because of his double responsibilities, and Jerry Tannenbaum agreed to take on this responsibility. .  Plans were made to hold the next meeting of the Society at the AVMA Meeting in July of 1998 in Baltimore, MD, and the program would be developed by the president and the president-elect.

The November 1997 Newsleter (Volume 3 Number 3) stated that the SVME had 147 regular members and 10 student members.  The assets of the organization were $4794.30.  The Newsletter also presented an article entitled Ethical Guidelines for Professional Care and Services in a Managed Health Care Environment by the National Academies of Practice.

The fifth meeting of the SVME was held on Saturday, July 25, 1998 at the AVMA Meeting in Baltimore, MD.  A day long session was scheduled presenting topics on Ethical Issues Involving  Veterinary Practice and Licensing Boards.

Morning Session -  “You Gotta Serve Somebody”: Ethical Issues in Veterinary Practice

Veterinary Ethics: Whom Do We Serve

Mary Beth Leininger, Topeka, KS

Ethical Issues in Academic Veterinary Practice

Don Draper, Ames, IA

Ethical Issues are Not Black and White: Often They Are a Matter of Perspective

Hugh Lewis, VetSmart

Afternoon Session - A View from the Licensing Board

The Role of the Veterinary Licensing Boards

Nancy L. Collins, Alta Loma, CA


Veterinary Medical Ethics in Oklahoma

Mary G. Ballenger, Broken Arrow, OK

A View from Maryland

A. Cleveland Brown, Burtonsville, MD

One Veterinary Board Member’s View of Ethics as it Impacts the Board

Donald R. Watson, Bancroft, MI      

The business meeting of the SVME followed the educational presentations, and a new slate of officers was elected:

President:                          Robert C. Speth        Pullman, WA

President-elect:                  Ronald McLaughlin    Columbia, MO

Secretary:                          Ione L. Smith           Knoxville, TN

Treasurer:                          Hal Jenkins              Phoenix, AZ

Historian:                           Lawrence Carbone    Ithaca, NY

Parliamentarian:                 Richard Fink             Hacienda Heights, CA

Past President:                   John R. Boyce Bismarck, ND

President Robert Speth reported on the status of the VETETHIC electronic mailing list.  As of April 30, 1998, the SVME had  $4941.07 in the treasury and there were 170 regular members and 16 student members.  Jerry Tannenbaum agreed to help the president with the newsletter.  Plans were made to hold the next meeting of the SVME at the AVMA Meeting in July of 1999 in New Orleans, LA, and the program would be developed by the president and the president-elect.

At the AVMA Meeting in Baltimore, the House of Delegates approved the first major revision of the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics in 10 years.  The Principles were written by the Judicial Council with major input by founding members of the SVME, Robert Shomer and Al Dorn, who were members of the Judicial Council at that time.

The next Newsletter (Volume 4 Numbers 3-4) was published in December of 1998.  Jerry Tannenbaum has assumed the position of editor, and he explained how the Newsletter would be distributed electronically.  This edition published summaries of the papers presented at the recent  annual meeting of the SVME in Baltimore, and reviews of some recent books on animal ethics.

Six months later, in June of 1999, the next Newsletter of the SVME (Volume 5 Number 1-2) was published.  This edition presented a preview of the next SVME Meeting in New Orleans, and reported on a symposium entitled Ethical Issues in Veterinary Medicine presented by the Student AVMA Chapter at Washington State University.  The newsletter also reported on the untimely death of Richard Fink, Parliamentarian of the Society.  Albert S. Dorn, a previous president, agreed to act as interim parliamentarian until the next regular meeting.

The sixth meeting of the SVME was held on Saturday, July 10, 1999 at the AVMA Meeting in New Orleans, LA.   This was the first time that the SVME presentations would be part of the regular program of the AVMA on Personal and Professional Development, rather than being identified as an allied organization.  A day long session was scheduled:

Morning Session - Veterinary Ethics

Ethical Issues Facing New Graduates

Don Draper, Ames, IA


Moral and Ethical Development of Veterinary Students and New Graduates

Donnie Self, College Station, TX

Afternoon Session - Animal Rights

Veterinary Medicine and the Animal Rights Movement

Robert Speth, Pullman, WA

Animal Rights, Ethics and Veterinary Ethics

Joe Bielitzki, Winter Garden, FL

Ethics and Regulations in Animal Care and Use

Ron McLaughlin, Columbia, MO

The business meeting of the SVME followed the educational presentations, and a new slate of officers was elected:

President:                          Ronald McLaughlin    Columbia, MO

President-elect:                  Don Draper              Ames, IA

Secretary:                          Ione L. Smith           Knoxville, TN

Treasurer:                          Hal Jenkins               Phoenix, AZ

Historian:                           Lawrence Carbone    Ithaca, NY

Parliamentarian:                 Albert S. Dorn Knoxville, TN

Past President:                   Robert C. Speth        Pullman, WA

The Society had a balance in the Treasury of $7658.10 and there were 222 members on the membership roster.  Jerry Tannenbaum resigned as editor of the newsletter because of health issues, and a new editor needed to be identified.  The members agreed to continue to hold the SVME Meeting as part of the regular AVMA Meeting (Personal and Professional Development Section) at the next AVMA Meeting in Salt Lake City in July of 2000.  The program would be planned by the president and the president-elect.

In September of 1999, Sylvie Cloutier, a Research Associate at Washington State University, agreed to assume the position of editor of the Newsletter.  The newsletter of May, 2000 included book reviews and a program schedule for the upcoming meeting of the SVME at the AVMA Meeting in Salt Lake City. She worked toward the development of an electronic edition.

On October 15, 1999 Bob Shomer passed away after a couple of years of severe illness.  His efforts in founding the SVME were recognized and appreciated by all the members.  His estate  bequeathed about $15,000 to the SVME to continue the promotion of veterinary ethics and value issues to the veterinary profession.

The sixth meeting of the SVME was held on Saturday, July 22, 2000 at the AVMA Meeting in Salt Lake City, UT.  A day long session was scheduled presenting topics on Veterinarians and Humane Organizations and Corporate Veterinary Practice.

Morning Session - Veterinarians and Humane Organizations

Ethical Relationships Between Veterinarians and Humane Organizations - Part I

Bill Folger, Houston, TX

Ethical Relationships Between Veterinarians and Humane Organizations - Part II

Larry Hawk, New York, NY

Ethical Relationships Between Veterinarians and Humane Organizations - Part III

Brian Forsgren, Bay Village, OH


Afternoon Session - Corporate Veterinary Practice

Ethical Issues in a Large Corporate Veterinary Practice - Part I

Robert Featherstone, Bellevue, WA

Ethical Issues in a Large Corporate Veterinary Practice - Part II

Ed Stephenson, Olney, MD

Panel Discussion with all of the Speakers

The business meeting of the SVME followed the educational presentations, and a new slate of officers was elected:

President:                       Don Draper                 Ames, IA

President-elect:               William Folger            Houston, TX

Secretary:                       Ione L. Smith              Knoxville, TN

Treasurer:                       Mary D. McCauley     Zionsville, IN

Historian:                        Jerrold Tannenbaum    Davis, CA

Parliamentarian:              Albert S. Dorn Knoxville, TN

Past President:                Ronald McLaughlin Columbia, MO

The treasurer reported a balance of $9996.86 in the treasury, with 161 dues paying members in Society.  President-elect Bill Folger summarized his plans for the next meeting of the SVME at the AVMA meeting in Boston, MA in July of 2001.

The Society could now move forward into the 21st Century with a secure financial future and new leadership.  The bequest of about $15,000 from the estate of Bob Shomer allowed the Society to promote veterinary ethics through additional meetings and programs.  A new younger group of officers will be able to carry out these efforts, and insure that ethical and value issues will remain an important part of the veterinary profession.


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