BOOKS: Blue Juice

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2012:

Blue Juice: Euthanasia in Veterinary Medicine by Patricia Morris
Temple University Press (1852 N. 10th St., Philadelphia,
PA 19122), 2012. 244 pages, paperback. $28.95.

Euthanasia is not a topic for casual discussion over lunch,
but is a part of every veterinarian’s practice. Ending a 12-year-old
dog’s pain and suffering can be a relief. On the other hand,
shelter vets may feel emotionally raw. How can a person euthanize a
6-month-old tail-wagging dog, or a two-year-old purring cat, and
not hate the job?

Patricia Morris, an assistant professor of sociology, began
researching Blue Juice: Euthanasia in Veterinary Medicine after
hearing a story about a veterinarian with a large-animal practice.
After he treated a cow on one occasion, the family whose cow the vet
had seen asked him to euthanize their pet chicken. At first, the vet
thought it was a joke. He almost laughed, but then realized the
family had grown attached to this one particular chicken, whom they
viewed much as others see their cats and dogs.
Morris says that veterinarians should make efforts to bring
about a “good death” for animals, regardless of species. A client’s
feelings of loss should not be negated if the dying patient is a
mouse or a reptile.
Cost is often a factor in the decision to euthanize. A
veterinarian may be asked to euthanize an animal who has a curable
illness, such as an upper respiratory or urinary tract infection,
because the person responsible for the animal either cannot or will
not pay for the treatment. That presents a dilemma. The veterinarian
can offer less costly options for low income owners who really want
to treat their pets, such as buying the medication through an
on-line service.
What about the person, though, who drives up in a shiny new
Mercedes, but says she cannot afford to treat her cat’s ear
infection and tells the vet to euthanize? The veterinarian may be
resentful, yet feel obligated to abide by the wishes of the legal
owner of the animal.
Morris shares veterinarians’ feelings while they euthanize.
Many veterinarians recognize that losing a dog or cat can be
emotionally agonizing. Some pet keepers sob uncontrollably. Others
want to talk about happier times with their pet. Veterinarians
usually let clients decide who will attend their pet’s euthanasia.
“Sometimes that means the whole family,” says Morris, “including
children, friends, and neighbors.” One vet had thirteen people in
the room.
Though repetitive at times, Blue Juice is on the whole an
honest, open look at an often overlooked and misunderstood topic.
But I wish Morris had written more about the emotional aspects of
euthanasia as experienced by shelter workers.

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