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Comments on the dilemma in the May issue: Refusing to take part in euthanasia
  1. Rose A. Unsworth
  1. unsworthpr{at}


In the dilemma discussed in the May issue of In Practice, a nurse from your veterinary team had asked to speak with you in private. She told you that, as an animal rights activist, she was reluctant to take part in animal euthanasia in the future. Can a veterinary nurse refuse to take part in euthanasia due to their personal beliefs? (IP, May 2016, vol 38, pp 253-254). Manuel Magalhães-Sant'Ana suggested that a response to the question required more information: in what circumstances did the nurse refuse to assist in euthanasia, was the refusal unconditional or contextual, and how would others be affected? Reasonable measures should be taken to protect the nurse from future work in which contextual euthanasia was a possible outcome. Doing this would mean that the nurse could meet the demands of the job, be prevented from emotional stress, and avoid conflicts with colleagues. It should also prevent animal welfare being compromised in the future. The nurse also had a duty to suggest alternatives to euthanasia, seeking support from the veterinary team and the regulatory body.

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As a veterinary surgeon, I am fully aware of the fact that if I refuse to euthanase an animal then the options that the client has could include simple abandonment of the animal, an attempt to take action themselves (for example, by drowning the animal) or possibly finding themselves in the position of having to ring around other clinics.

At what point would my decision to act in this manner impact negatively on animal welfare and client wellbeing? Surely my societal role and obligations to animal welfare dictate that, however unpalatable the action may seem to be on a personal level, I am in no position to exercise a conscience vote.

Whose rights take precedent? When one takes on any role within the veterinary profession one has to accept that there may be difficult and unpalatable decisions to make and the buck does indeed stop with you.

Do not expect colleagues to take on a role that you are not prepared to.

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