My last post has garnered a sizeable viewership- I am truly starting to appreciate the wonders of social media. Thank you for all who have read, liked and/or shared the post. I must admit that some of my loved ones have expressed their nagging concerns on the potential impact that article coule cause on my career. However as I’ve said previously, I wrote that post with full awareness of the possible repercussions and am prepared to shoulder it.
Besides, everything I’ve written states the truth and also the current conditions in Singapore. It’s not me, but them that should have issues sleeping at night.
Today I intend to discuss the dreaded and morbid topic of euthanasia.
I understand that this subject may not be for all, and that some may disagree with my opinions. However, please note that this is entirely my take on this and is subject to debate.
Euthanasia- Also called mercy killing. the act of putting to death painlessly or allowing to die, as by withholding extreme medical measures, a person or animal suffering from an incurable, especially a painful, disease or condition. painless death.
(taken from dictionary.com).
In the course of my career, I have performed this procedure several dozen times. Perhaps slightly more than a general practitioner in most veterinary clinics due to the nature of my emergency work in both Singapore and Australia.
For those who do not know, euthanasia in an animal involves the injection of a strong/ overdose of anaesthetic into the vein (this can be done directly off a needle or via an intravenous catheter). Occasionally, the animal (especially in animals that are fractious/ aggressive) may be pre-medicated with a sedative prior to this injection. The animal is seen to drift off to a sleep and the veterinarian checks the animal for the presence of a heartbeat. The process (from the time when injection is given) normally takes about 1 minute or less and is an entirely painless procedure.
I often prepare clients that the animal may be seen to urinate or defecate after and that they will go with their eyes open.
Saying goodbye is never an easy process. I can entirely empathise with the pain of losing a loved one. That void will possibly never be filled.
But as I tell my clients (and I truly believe this)- the decision to euthanize is not a selfish one but a selfless one. That we as sentient beings are able to make the decision to not let our beloved pets suffer.
In actual fact, looking back in my years of practice-the consults that I remember most, are the ones that clients have allowed the animal to suffer and not opt for euthanasia.
I remember several years ago, a client presented with a cat one late evening. This cat had been on the decline for several weeks, been inappetant for the past 7 days and minimally responsive for 3 days. The cat presented immobile, cold (with a core temperature of 31 degrees- this is essentially incompatible with life!), unresponsive, severely dehydrated, extremely emaciated and soaked in it’s own excrement. My heart broke that night. When I close my eyes right this moment, I am still able to picture that sight of him.
The clients refused euthanasia. They refused treatment (however I did inform them of the poor prognosis). They refused tests. They refused pain relief. They simply, refused.
Despite my desperate pleas to humanely euthanize the cat, they decided to bring him home regardless. I never saw them or the cat again.
I understand that people may have a variety of their own reasons to hesitate at the option of euthanasia; be it religion, financial cost, ill-preparedness, shock, needing more time, etcetc. However as a veterinarian (and I believe with MOST veterinarians)- bringing up the topic and option of euthanasia really isn’t one we discuss on a whimp. We only list that option when we know that this is ultimately one of the best outcomes for the animal.
Truth to be told, I have been presented with cases where the animal’s condition is probably treatable or possibly manageable for a period of time. And as much as there were viable options available (and I had listed those options to the client), euthanasia may be provided as the final option for them. This is because as a veterinarian, we not only have to consider the medical condition that is presented in front of us. I have to assess other considerations such as cost, quality of life, client’s ability to cope with the patient, client’s circumstance, animal’s demeanor (can it be handled? is it aggressive?), client compliance, percentage success, potential complication, etc etc.
Not forgetting that ultimately, the final decision lies in the hands of the owner (s).
It is never as clear cut as it looks.
We veterinarians, took an oath when we graduated from veterinary school. We swore to use our knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal’s health, relief of animal suffering, conservation of lifestock resources, promotion of public health and the advancement of medical knowledge.
I believe most veterinarian, and myself included adhere to this code and do provide the best care to our patients’ given the circumstances.
In an ideal world, we would be able to save all living creatures. In an ideal world, we would all be able to cast our financial woes aside. In an ideal world, we would like our loved ones and animals to be with us forever.
However, does this ideal exist?