Euthanasia accepted for our pets
Controversial topic trickier when applied to humans
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.