The first definition as outlined by Merriam Webster defines ethical judgements as “involving or expressing moral approval or disapproval,” and ethical behavior as “conforming to accepted standards of conduct.” If judgement and behavior warrant two different definitions, do policy and action warrant two different perspectives?
I classify Veterinarians as experts on euthanasia. Lucky for me, I was able to host an interview of sorts with a veterinarian I work with each day as we stood across from one another with an open kitten between us. As he sutured her tiny uterine tubes, he told me stories that gave him the perspective he has on euthanasia today. He tells me that each euthanasia he has performed has taken a significant toll on his day, and sometimes even his life. He says he never walks out of the room the same way he walks in. He says that the love you often feel between the owner and the pet during those last moments give him the strength and belief which enable him to continue practicing medicine.
I ask him the story of the hardest euthanasia he has been involved in as he cleans up the lucky kitten who unconsciously witnessed this conversation.
“My wife and I euthanized our dog at home,” he says. “The three of us were a team. She placed the catheter, I administered the pentobarbital, and our dog patiently waited with us. I felt both sides of the procedure at once- the one who loves the animal and the one who helps him die.”
His voice was constant and steady.
I’ve felt both sides of the procedure too, but not at once. I laid next to my childhood Golden Retriever as he took his last breath, and I’ve watched as a family held their 9 year old Great Dane while she was put to sleep. The beauty and pain from both sides are inexplainable, but the peace brought to the patient, the family and the vet when a sick animal dies with dignity is the reason animal euthanasia is so prominent in our society.
Since the only people who are legally and ethically able to end life in the US are veterinarians, they seem to be the only experts on dignified death. While veterinarians spend each day partaking in the process of euthanasia, many of their viewpoints are in support of the process. As I interviewed the doctor, I realized that his perspectives fell directly in line with what they must in order to practice veterinary medicine each day. From this interview, I came to the conclusion that the vast majority of experts on Euthanasia believe in its morality and ethicality.
If the collective group of people who witness and perform euthanasias often or at all believe in the good of dignified death, is their opinion more valid than those who express opposition towards euthanasia from the blindness of misunderstanding? The experts say yes, euthanasia is overall beneficial in the case of animals. What are the differences when it comes to humans?