Eu­thana­sia ac­cepted for our pets

Con­tro­ver­sial topic trick­ier when ap­plied to hu­mans

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION - With Dr Ian Schraa

The Le­cre­tia Seales case has raised the topic of le­gal­i­sa­tion of eu­thana­sia for hu­mans.

Eu­thana­sia has be­come an in­creas­ingly dis­cussed topic in re­cent years.

As a vet­eri­nar­ian, I eu­thanase an­i­mals most weeks and some would say the ar­gu­ments for it with an­i­mals are the same as for hu­mans. I dis­agree, how­ever.

There are many ar­gu­ments for and against eu­thana­sia in the hu­man field. I am per­son­ally against eu­thana­sia for peo­ple, in most cir­cum­stances.

I do think that in­di­vid­ual cases, such as Le­cre­tia Seales’ have merit, but the le­gal­i­sa­tion, and hence nor­mal­i­sa­tion of this prac­tice could open a se­ri­ous Pan­dora’s box.

When deal­ing with sick or in­jured pets, eu­thana­sia is an ac­cepted prac­tice.

There are sev­eral rea­sons for this.

It can be be­cause of an in­abil­ity to man­age and nurse med­i­cal and sur­gi­cal con­di­tions be­cause they are an­i­mals.

For ex­am­ple, it would be ex­tremely dif­fi­cult for a cat or dog to tol­er­ate a colostomy bag.

Un­for­tu­nately, some­times the rea­son is fi­nan­cial, be­cause the public health sys­tem and our taxes do not ex­tend to the an­i­mal king­dom.

More of­ten it is a ‘‘qual­ity of life’’ sit­u­a­tion, where the over­all stan­dard of the an­i­mal’s life is too poor for it to be fair con­tin­u­ing at that level.

Ul­ti­mately, we, as their own­ers and guardians, are re­spon­si­ble for their wel­fare and well-be­ing. That in­cludes look­ing af­ter our pets at the end. As vet­eri­nar­i­ans we will guide own­ers, but act as the pet’s ad­vo­cate in en­sur­ing that the de­ci­sion, if made, is in the best in­ter­ests of the pet.

That doesn’t make the de­ci­sion to say that fi­nal good­bye any eas­ier. See­ing an­i­mals suf­fer is not easy ei­ther, though.

Most peo­ple are re­lieved at how gen­tle it is for their pet. It can ac­tu­ally be bet­ter for the pet than dy­ing nat­u­rally, be­cause that is not al­ways as quick or pain­less as peo­ple might like to hope or think.

How­ever, with hu­mans we have an ex­ten­sive first-class med­i­cal sys­tem to deal with near-death.

Both my fa­ther and step-fa­ther died pre­ma­turely of can­cer and although the dis­ease did kill them in the end, their suf­fer­ing was greatly re­duced by car­ing doc­tors, nurses and car­ers, the use of drugs and by hav­ing lov­ing fam­ily mem­bers around them.

What con­cerns me is that if eu­thana­sia is le­galised and con- sidered nor­mal, some el­derly or in­firm or dis­abled will deem their ex­is­tence to their fam­i­lies and so­ci­ety as a bur­den and elect for eu­thana­sia.

It will not be just the ter­mi­nally ill.

I see it when some clients want their pet eu­thanased for pa­thetic rea­sons such as mov­ing house or re­la­tion­ship splits.

So imag­ine when money and in­her­i­tances come in to the pic­ture for hu­man eu­thana­sia. For­tu­nately that is not a fac­tor with an­i­mals.

In ad­di­tion, there are the re­li­gious be­liefs of hu­mans, the dif­fer­ent opin­ions of fam­ily mem­bers and the ex­po­sure of doc­tors to be­ing chal­lenged to pro­vide this ‘‘ser­vice’’.

An an­i­mal does not have a di­rect say in the eu­thana­sia de­ci­sion and that does make it sim­pler.

Who de­cides on a hu­man’s qual­ity of life? A doc­tor, a priest, a son or daugh­ter or a part­ner?

It seemed on tele­vi­sion that Le­cre­tia Seales’ part­ner was un­sure about be­ing asked to make that de­ci­sion on her be­half if she was no longer men­tally able to.

It is a very com­pli­cated de­ci­sion that does not al­ways have a sim­ple, ra­tio­nal an­swer.


Le­cre­tia Seales, whose ethana­sia case is a lot more com­pli­cated than what most pet own­ers face.

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