Euthanasia – A Gift for Animals but Not People

I don’t always stick to strictly animal topics.  Today, we look at a recent topic in the news from the human side.  Don’t worry, next week we’ll get back to animals and something fun; I promise.

Euthanasia – A Gift for Animals but Not People

Recently, the Canadian Supreme Court reached a landmark decision to reverse a law allowing people to have access to physician assisted death in specific cases.  The current law will become invalid in 1 year.  A few places around the world such as Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the states of Oregon, Montana, & New Jersey (to name a few) already have laws in place to allow such end of life decisions for people. Belgium even allows for euthanasia of a person.

Coming to such a decision to humanely euthanize a pet has been a gift for people and the affected animal for many years.  I have unfortunately been witness to pets being carried along for too long with owners living in denial.  I remember one cat from 6-7 years ago (from my time in Florida) that I diagnosed with end stage liver failure.  This sweet cat would come in 1-2 times a week to have fluid removed from his belly just to help him feel comfortable and be able to breathe.  The owner was unwilling or unable to afford more intense or beneficial therapy but she refused to euthanize her sweet boy.  Some people might say I should have refused to do anything but that hardly seems humane.  Despite all my efforts to discuss the quality of life with this owner, they refused euthanasia and sadly this cat passed away one day on his way to the hospital from trouble breathing.

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I’ve seen how perceptive animals are.  If the tables were turned, I think they would make the decisions to let us go if they felt our suffering was too great.  Personally, both of my grandfathers lay helplessly in their hospital beds in their final days.  Yes, surrounded by family who loved them but all of us being powerless to ease their pain.  Hopefully the recent decision by the courts here will allow people to decide the same for terminally ill human patients as we do for our pets.  I encourage everyone reading this to contact your member of Parliament (or your Representative/Senator if you’re in the USA) and ask them to support new laws showing this kindness towards people.  Some of you may not agree, but I see myself in the unique position as a veterinarian that I know what a blessing it can be to relieve suffering in my patients so I feel my position is warranted.  Whether you agree or not, I’m open to civil discussion in the comments below.

For more information, in Canada, you can visit the organization Dying With Dignity Canada on their webpage or Facebook.

Disclaimer: All blog posts are personally written and my opinion and do not reflect those of current or former employers.

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3 Comments

  1. A very thoughtful post! I admit, I am conflicted about it all. I would love to see better palliative care; our local palliative care place has an incredible backlog and not nearly enough beds. I wonder if better palliative care might lessen the need for euthanasia/assisted dying. I worry about people checking out early because they feel they don’t want to be a burden to their families, etc. At the same time, I don’t really think it’s my place to tell people how to live or die! I hope to see carefully-thought-out guidelines put in place to ensure that abuses don’t occur, but not so many that they render it impossible at obtain!

    Certainly I’ve seen the relief euthanasia has given to my own pets, and I don’t wish suffering on humans simply because they are human and euthanasia is not permitted for them. Still thinking about it all, I guess!

    • Dr. Ryan Llera

      February 13, 2015 at 12:15 am

      It certainly is an interesting and about to be much debated topic. I definitely hope that for reasons you present people will contact the right figures to help shape appropriate laws that will be fair and effective. I think by starting with a small segment of affected people and then re-evaluating it would be useful and certainly it should be carefully monitored. At the same time, if somebody wants to bad enough, not having a doctor isn’t going to stop them. This is where better mental health care should be provided and accessible.

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