End of life care for pets versus people

On Saturday, April 6, 2019, my Uncle Charlie passed away. The atmosphere around his death versus that of my dogs got me thinking about the ongoing debate over physician assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.

The option to euthanize

I knew when my dogs were going to pass. That’s because I had the option to euthanize them rather than let them suffer.

Casey, my Pomeranian mix, had gone into renal failure. The vet simply put the drugs into his I.V. I stayed there, rubbing his ears, twirling his long hair around my fingers, and singing the little ditty I sang to him every night before we went to bed.

Both of my pitbull princesses had cancer.

Dalilah rested her head on my shoulder as the vet gave her the first shot of sedation. I then laid behind her, wrapping my arms around her, singing “Tracks of My Tears” softly into her ear. Though the vet warned us of a possible, frightening last gasp, Dalilah slipped away in total peace.

I can’t remember if I sang to Roxy or just talked to her. She might have gotten lucky.

The point is that for each of them, I had the chance to do anything I could think of to direct love and calmness to them. I like to think I helped make their transitions as smooth and comfortable as possible.

Compared to people

Though Uncle Charlie’s battle with cancer lasted years, his downward spiral took all of about a week. He got to be at home, just like he wanted. He was aware of the family helping take care of him. Most people don’t get such gifts.

Even so, at the time he crossed that threshold, all was quiet. Only my mom, his sister, was in the room, organizing his next round of medications.

No one held his hand or reassured him all was well and safe. No one had the opportunity to consciously create a loving presence through which to send him off.

How could we when no one had any idea when it would happen?

The option to plan

I’m not saying Uncle Charlie would have opted for physician assisted suicide. I doubt he would.

But some people would.

Wouldn’t it be a blessing for everyone involved if family and friends knew when to gather near their dying loved one and hold each other, comfort one another, laugh over some silly memories together, and send their loved one off with their collective light and positivity?

It’s not for everyone. But I think humans deserve that option as much as pets.

Thanks for stopping by today.

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About Christie Green

I'm a certified health coach, intuitive healer, writer, animal-lover, and peace artist (formerly martial artist) helping clients create lives with more balance, less bark.
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3 Responses to End of life care for pets versus people

  1. colinandray says:

    The theory is great, and makes so much sense but only at a superficial level. Whatever term is used to describe the process, it is in fact killing.
    Do we have the right to ask a doctor to kill a loved one. Not only is it in conflict with their Hippocratic Oath, but they may well have personal convictions that prohibit such an action and, as an aside, it is probably in conflict with your current laws.
    Let us assume that you find a doctor will kill your loved one, and let us assume that it is legal. Who determines when it is a legitimate option? Sadly, human nature works against this process because there will be people who try and hasten a death simply for inheritance reasons, and there are doctors who can be bought. We can become uncivilized very fast if there are no “checks and balances” resulting in total clarity of the circumstances.
    Finally, if we put the onus on the individual whose quality of life is the origin of the dilemma, then their state of mind will be debated. i.e. if their quality of life is that bad, then can they be expected to think rationally?
    I totally agree that it would be nice to have the same options as we do with a distressed pet, but I think we would be going down the proverbial “slippery slope” if laws were ever passed making it a viable option. History does suggest that our species can be totally self-serving and ruthless.

    • Thank you, Colin. People can go from zero to heated on this issue quickly, so I appreciate and admire your thoughtful response. And I agree with most of your assessment (which is unfortunate, since we both agree humans can be terrible creatures, but alas, examples abound. Otherwise loving, ordinary people turn into greedy monsters when inheritance is at stake regardless of cause of death). I also think you’re right in that a very strict protocol would need to be established, much in the same way a “do not resuscitate” or declining life support instructions can be established well ahead of time. I’ve lost a lot of family members and I can’t think of one in which the person got to die with any shred of dignity (example, did you know there’s a specific anti-fungal/ anti-microbial wipe that has to be used on a person’s perineum in addition to cleaning them up after they’ve relieved themselves? Unless the person enjoys being fussed over to that degree, it’s just humiliating.) As for physicians, I would most definitely not compel all doctors to comply, much in the same way I would not compel my family doctor to perform open heart surgery on me. (I will point out, however, that of all of my family who have died, none had a doctor anywhere near them, so having a doctor present, alone, could be an improvement.) Part of planning for end of life is seeking out the desired resources and having them lined up. If a person wants the assistance, they must be willing to have these conversations in advance or else it doesn’t happen. We may be a long way off from accepting this as an option, but we can’t continue looking the other way when there are so many causes of death that are long and suffering, like cancer. We must come up with better care. I’m grateful for people like you who are at least willing to have respectful conversation about it.

      • colinandray says:

        Hi Christie – I rather suspect that we will get there in a few more generations time. Perhaps over-population, and/or overloaded health care facilities, and/or simple apathy by the majority of the population towards the minority, and/or the costs associated with maintaining life in those circumstances. … or perhaps all of them, will one day trigger it as an election issue, and ultimately become a reality.

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