Ethics of euthanasia - DVM
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Ethics of euthanasia


"It's one thing with an animal that has been well cared for, and it is a quality of life issue. On the other hand, the convenience thing, I just want to turn off. I don't want to know anything about this animal. I will do it because they will go somewhere else. I don't want to get involved though. In fact, I don't even want to look at it in the eye."

It's a reality of practice, she adds. In fact, most veterinarians report they are asked to euthanize healthy animals at least a few times a year according to an exclusive DVM Newsmagazine survey.

"There seems to be a big range of what individual veterinarians feel comfortable in doing. It's hard to generalize, but in the past veterinarians felt like they served the pet owner, and if the pet owner requested something, the veterinarian provided the service," Rauch says.

Some veterinarians don't ask questions, others ask a lot of owners who request to euthanize without medical justification. Even with medical justification, how much is enough?

To drive the point home with veterinary students, Rauch explains that she has three cats. She knows that two of them would not be adoptable if she had to relinquish them tomorrow. "I would probably euthanize them, just because I know what will likely happen."

"Being a conscientious veterinarian is a very hard job," says Rollin, PhD. "You may come to work in the morning seeing a healthy animal, convincing a client not to euthanize and telling another client it is too soon. There is stress from all sides. Pediatricians have all of the laws behind them on child cruelty. Look at it from a veterinarian's perspective: Do you report cruelty? What about cases of abuse? When do you recommend alleviating pain and suffering?

"And there is more of it coming. As pets become more important, there will be more variations of these same themes," Rollin adds.

With it, comes responsibility and a price tag to the healer.

"It is probably one of the single most stressful things in practice. Unlike other health professions, people constantly beg you for a bargain or a way out. So, you are asked to compromise your medical decision-making to try to save money," Rauch says.

Welle agrees that finance plays a big role in practice. Being asked to compromise a doctor's ethical principles also causes fatigue and burnout.

"In one examination room, you may be asked to end life, and five minutes later you have to turn around and put on another face for your next client," Welle says. "It can be hard."


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