Daily Bulletin


  • Written by Simon Coghlan, Senior lecturer in health ethics, University of Adelaide; Research fellow in robot ethics, University of Melbourne

Vets often grapple with the moral dilemma of when a client wants to kill an inconvenient pet. Clients might, for instance, hint that caring for the pet has become too much trouble, or that it interferes with their lifestyle or living situation. This is called “convenience euthanasia”.

Most vets have no qualms about euthanasia and believe it’s necessary for animals suffering severely or threatening public safety because of uncontrollable aggression.

But vets may also feel strongly that killing animals for insufficient reasons is, though legal, contrary to their professional role.

Read more: Why you shouldn’t bury your pet in the backyard

A recent North American study found nearly 27% of vets across different practice types “sometimes or often” received what they considered inappropriate requests for ending animal lives. Most vets had received such requests at least once, only about 7% had never received them.

Just over 75% said they never or only rarely carried out “inappropriate” euthanasia.

Another 2018 study focusing on small animal practice found 83% of vets did not agree that euthanasia was always ethical.

I argue in a recent journal article vets should be strong advocates for their patients. A veterinary professional who is a strong patient advocate works diligently on behalf of animal patients to promote their interests.

As health care professionals, vets are powerfully guided by a duty to protect their patients from harm, including premature death.

Why your veterinarian may refuse to euthanise your pet Veterinarians have a professional duty to advocate for their patients. Anne Worner, CC BY-SA

Moral dilemmas

Veterinary boards and associations say euthanasia is sometimes morally necessary and should occur when suffering cannot be relieved. Vets often have to persuade clients it’s time to “let go”.

It’s true some medical and behavioural conditions cannot be adequately treated. But sadly, some owners cannot afford veterinary treatment for treatable problems. This can lead to agonising moral decisions for both pet owners and veterinarians.

Some owners assume vets must administer a lethal injection to their pet on request.

But vets are free to conscientiously decline “inappropriate euthanasias”. The Guidelines of the Veterinary Practitioners Registration Board of Victoria make this professional freedom explicit:

Veterinary practitioners may refuse to euthanise animals where it is not necessary on humane grounds if they have a moral objection but must give the client the option of seeking the service elsewhere.

Euthanising healthy or treatable animals

What if the animal presented for euthanasia is healthy, or has a problem that is treatable and affordable? What if the client has overestimated the severity of the condition, refuses to explore other options, or is mistaken about the animal’s quality of life?

Read more: Vets can do more to reduce the suffering of flat-faced dog breeds

Even when requests for euthanasia go beyond mere “convenience”, they can still be deeply morally troubling for vets. This can cause moral distress to veterinarians.

Moral distress is thought to be one reason why veterinarians suffer professional burnout and compassion fatigue. In fact, vets have a higher suicide rate than the general population.

Why your veterinarian may refuse to euthanise your pet Veterinarians can decline carrying out euthanasia. Shutterstock

Of course, vets should not ignore clients’ genuine interests and should foster the bond between humans and animals. Vets should be prepared to sympathetically explore with clients why they are struggling to care for their pets, and to suggest other options where appropriate.

The problem with refusing euthanasia

Some vets worry that euthanasia refusals risk owners illegally mistreating or killing the animal themselves. This assumption may sometimes be true, but it often lacks evidence.

Read more: Pets and owners - you can learn a lot about one by studying the other

Owners absolutely intent on killing their healthy or treatable pets can still attend a willing vet clinic or animal shelter. But it is possible that in light of the vet’s clear moral stance, some owners will reconsider their decision to end their pets’ lives – now and in the future. And at least some owners will be persuaded to surrender their pet to another home.

Another concern is that conscientious objection unfairly shifts responsibility from one vet to another. But declining to kill animals for inadequate reasons should be prioritised over any notion of being “unfair” to other vets.

What’s more, many clients who love their pets may be reassured that their vet is a strong patient advocate who does not kill animals for frivolous or inadequate reasons.

So, when your pet is suffering irremediably, your veterinarian is very likely to recommend euthanasia. But when a companion animal is not ready to die, you may or may not find that your vet will, for ethical and professional reasons, decline a request to end the animal’s life. And often it will be their moral imperative to do so.

Authors: Simon Coghlan, Senior lecturer in health ethics, University of Adelaide; Research fellow in robot ethics, University of Melbourne

Read more http://theconversation.com/why-your-veterinarian-may-refuse-to-euthanise-your-pet-110263

Writers Wanted

Despite more than 30 major inquiries, governments still haven't fixed aged care. Why are they getting away with it?


Mathias Cormann wants to lead the OECD. The choice it makes will be pivotal


The Conversation


Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Business News

What Few People Know About Painters

What do you look for when renting a house? Most potential tenants look for the general appearance of a house. If the house is poorly decorated, they are likely to turn you off. A painter Adelaide ...

News Co - avatar News Co

Important Instagram marketing tips

Instagram marketing is one of the most important approaches for digital advertisers. If you want to promote products online, then Instagram along with Facebook is the perfect option. After Faceboo...

News Co - avatar News Co

Top 3 Accident Law Firms of Riverside County, CA

Do you live in Riverside County and faced an accident and now looking for a trusted Law firm to present your case? If yes, then you have come to the right place. The purpose of the article is to...

News Co - avatar News Co

News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion