In the dilemma discussed in the May issue of In Practice, Wesley Cheung and Anne Fawcett described a scenario where you are a veterinarian working in an animal shelter. An eight-week-old puppy was recently brought in after a table collapsed on its head and the owners could not afford treatment. You believe that the prognosis for the dog to return to a normal state is poor; however, you discuss the options with the shelter manager who decides to refer the puppy to an emergency hospital. The shelter begins crowdfunding on social media to support the hospital expenses, and they find someone who is willing to adopt the puppy in the hope that it is discharged in the future. After several weeks of hospitalisation, it is clear that the puppy will never fully recover and will require intensive home care. (IP, May 2019, vol 41, pp 182-183). What do you do?
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Cheung and Fawcett’s scenario is an instance of the potential conflict between the good of the individual and the group. Let’s assume that the puppy would not have a life worth living, but that continuing its life would result in a greater canine good through positive publicity and increased donations to the shelter. Based on these assumptions, if we choose to keep the puppy alive with a life not worth living it loses out. If we euthanase the puppy, other dogs will lose out. As veterinary surgeons, we are obliged by the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct to prioritise the welfare of the patient in our care. Hence, we should prioritise the welfare of the puppy and recommend euthanasia. In the poll on Vet Record’s Twitter page, 95 per cent of respondents agreed with euthanasing the puppy in this scenario, while 5 per cent elected to rehome the puppy to avoid bad publicity for the shelter.
Everyday Ethics Poll
Last month’s poll asked:
You are a shelter veterinarian responsible for a puppy with neurological problems related to head trauma. Treatment has been funded by crowdfunding on social media. After weeks of treatment, it is clear that the puppy will never fully recover. What do you do?
95% of respondents would euthanase the puppy since its quality of life would be so low, regardless of this being a high-publicity case.
5% of respondents would rehome the puppy regardless of whether it has a life worth living, as euthanasia would be bad publicity for the shelter.
Vote for this month’s online poll at:
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