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Ethics of Euthanasia

I was thinking about euthanasia when I was writing a previous post.

I always strive to assess the animal's on-going quality of life, because while veterinarians have an obligation to provide humane euthanasia in the event that an animal is suffering, we also have to be able to live with that decision when we end an animal's life.

This can cause stress which leads to insomnia, which can spiral if not handled properly.

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association has ethics guidelines and position statements regarding our obligations.

We had Dr. Terry Whiting come to our college to speak on his own struggles with euthanasia. I am the veterinarian that refuses to euthanize healthy animals. I also mentioned that the reason it took me so long to get to the decision of even applying to veterinary school was because of euthanasia. I had to be okay with performing this - veterinarians have this obligation. But not at the expense of our own morals. I have not euthanized an animal that I felt was not suffering in some way, or that I could not control the animal's pain without the use of high doses of sedative or opioids, as there is no quality of life in that. I previously posted about how to know when it is time to say goodbye.

In school, we had a veterinary ethics class, where our professors would present a case, and withhold the outcome, just to open up the discussion of tough situations that we will be put through. In fact, there is a book written by Bernard Rollin "An Introduction to Veterinary Medical Ethics: Theory and Cases" which has case studies within, and a section in the Canadian Veterinary Journal called Veterinary Medical Ethics. For future veterinarians, you would do yourself a favour by reading some of those cases.

So how do you handle yourself after a tough euthanasia? I will cry sometimes. Sometimes in the room with the owner, and sometimes in the back. Other times I let out a heavy sigh and smile before I open the door to the puppy appointment afterwards. Sometimes I need a break, and take a walk outside. Finally, I blog - this whole blog site is for me to decompress. What are your go-to stress relieving techniques?

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