Article Text

Veterinary opinions on refusing euthanasia: justifications and philosophical frameworks
  1. J. W. Yeates, BSc, BVSc, DWEL, MRCVS and
  2. D. C. J. Main, BVetMed, PhD, CertVR, DWEL, MRCVS
  1. Department of Clinical Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, Myrtle Cottage, Stock Lane, Langford, Bristol BS40 5EW
  1. E-mail for correspondence james.yeates{at}
  • Mr Yeates is also at Centre for Ethics in Medicine, University of Bristol

To obtain information on euthanasia decisions from practising veterinary surgeons, respondents were asked to estimate how often during their time in practice they had refused to euthanase a dog and how often they had wanted to refuse to euthanase a dog but not done so because of other pressures. For each, respondents were then asked to state their most common reasons for refusing/not refusing in free text. The responses of clinicians were considered in the light of established ethical concepts to produce an evidence-based ethical framework for decision making. In total, 58 practitioners responded. Common reasons given for decisions on whether to refuse euthanasia referred to the patient's interests, such as the possibility of treatment or rehoming, and the fear of other unacceptable outcomes for the dog. Other reasons were based on concern for owners' interests. Some respondents reported being pressured into euthanasia by clients and other veterinary surgeons. This gives insight into the ethical principles that explicitly underlie veterinary surgeons' euthanasia decisions and the resultant framework may be useful for discussing and teaching euthanasia.

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  • Provenance not commissioned; externally peer reviewed

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