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Doctor Questions Euthanasia after Dog’s Death

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Doctor Questions Euthanasia after Dog’s Death

Akeela was the beloved dog of Dr. Barron H. Lerner and his family. Throughout her life, the Boxer had her fair share of medical issues, such as a parathyroid adenoma and a ruptured liver tumor. By the time she was 12 years old, she had developed brain tumor which caused seizures. She had also developed Cushing’s disease, a severe hormonal abnormality.

Despite these conditions, Akeela continued to live out her life with her loving family, and willingly took all her medication. By September, Akeela’s symptoms had grown much worse.  She became restless all the time, often wandering in circles, she had stopped eating and had become partially blind too. The Lerner family had to make a difficult decision about their beloved pet. The family thought it best to intervene in their beloved Akeela’s health, rather than allowing nature to run its course.

After a veterinary exam, both the vet and family agreed that Akeela was not very happy nor very healthy. After holding a family meeting, the Lerner family made the difficult decision. Since she was no longer her happy and joyful self, and apparently suffering from the symptoms of her illness, Akeela was to be put down.

The family made arrangements for the procedure to take place in their home after they could say their final goodbyes. The veterinarian who came to their house was an at-home euthanasia specialist and agreed with the family that they were making the right decision for Akeela.  She would receive two injections, one to sedate her, which made her drowsy. The second would stop her heart, and ultimately her suffering.

Dr. Lerner took the death of Akeela very hard and made him begin to question his practice in medicine. While he believed that letting Akeela go was the most humane thing for her, he was challenging the idea of euthanasia. According to the Hippocratic oath that physicians take, they may not provide patients with medication for euthanasia nor suggest it to a suffering patient. This is one big difference between medicine and veterinary practices, as medicine forbids speeding up of death, while in veterinary practice it’s standard practice.

After losing Akeela, Dr. Lerner began reflecting on his patients who had been terminally ill and could not choose to end their suffering the way he and his family had decided for Akeela. If euthanasia was acceptable for pets when their pain was obvious with no way to reverse it, why is it that refusing euthanasia for humans is the right thing for doctors to do? This was the question that Dr. Lerner found himself debating.

If a patient who understands all his options asks for euthanasia, then surely, he should be worthier of euthanasia than a dog, since the dog’s suffering is assumed and not definite? Since it’s a doctor’s job to heal the human body and not harm it, even if the harm caused by euthanasia provides relief from their suffering (that we can deem unacceptable for our pets to endure).

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