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SIR, — It was interesting to read in the advice given to Lord Joffe by the bva's Ethics and Welfare Group (VR, June 9, 2007, vol 160, p 780) that some veterinary surgeons regard an animal's (presumably a patient's) death as a failure and so were reluctant to euthanase. I had just read in the synopsis of a talk for the forthcoming bva Congress that ‘Cancer kills 40 per cent of dogs over 10 years old’.
I wonder if we in the veterinary profession are adopting the attitude prevalent in western society that death is unacceptable and should be fought at all costs. It seems to me that an acceptance of the ultimate inevitability of death as a natural part of life and an emphasis on the avoidance of suffering for all concerned could benefit both the vet and the patient and the patient's family (in the companion animal context). This does not negate the skill and expertise used to diagnose and treat patients, including those with advanced malignant disease.
Skills in palliative care and euthanasia can continue to benefit the patient and owner, and form part of the remit of the veterinary surgeon in practice. While dealing with these cases can indeed be emotionally demanding, death can be accepted as the resolution without fear of failure, whatever the precipitating cause.
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