A recent pet owners only veterinary conference in Birmingham discussed the ever present question for all pet owners: how do vets decide when euthanasia is the right decision? A question with no clear ‘right’ answer, this is something that all students applying for Veterinary Medicine should consider their own perspective on.
One vet uses a ‘Quality of Life Scale’ in order to help owners make a decision. This scale scores based on pain, hydration, hygiene, mobility, and general enjoyment of life. He repeats the questionnaire every sixth months or so, so that the owners can see an objective measurement of their pet’s deterioration. He believes this process helps owners to prepare for the final farewell, as they can clearly see that the pet as deteriorated to the stage where death is preferable.
However, students interested in Philosophy should consider the concept of ‘Quality of life’ and whether this is indeed something we can quantitatively measure, or whether there are other, less tangible aspects we should consider. Theology students can investigate religions that might find issue with animal euthanasia.
Known by pet owners as having your pet ‘put to sleep’, animal euthanasia is not only used for old and dying animals, also by animal shelters (particularly in the US) to counteract overcrowding, a practice from which much of the debate comes. Students interested in Politics or Law can look into the laws and practices of Euthanasia across the world, both for animals and people.
Medicine students should also consider the wider implications of this debate in the wider discussions over euthanasia and assisted suicide. Some worry that although today we are only assessing the quality of life of animals, and our pets, we may not be far away from using the same criteria to assess elderly or terminally ill humans.