The miracle of life...and our role - Veterinary Practice
Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now



The miracle of life…and our role

RICHARD SANDERSON believes that the option of euthanasia is the part of the job he is most proud of and privileged to be able to perfor

I WRITE this in the sunshine, with an iced glass of a lager and my affiliation with Liverpool close to my heart, looking forward to the return of Torchwood. It is billed as Miracle Day – focusing on when the laws of life and death change.

In the UK, the decision of life and death remains an exclusive domain of vets. When I say this I obviously exclude those who choose to break the law and social expectations, the food industry slaughtermen and God. Each day is a balance of life, with those creating it, those fighting to maintain it, those beginning it and those ending it.

Within the timeline we all progress along, there are those who seek to “live” and those who fail to grasp just how valuable our most precious asset is.

Life is a commodity we often take for granted and one whose success is always contextualised within the circumstances surrounding us.

It was the great Bill Shankly who said, “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death; I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

At that time, football was for him the only thing that mattered in life and, as much as many of my friends who support Liverpool would disagree, a time would have come where only the sanctity of life would have mattered and football would, rightly, have taken a back seat in his life.

Unlike much of our profession, many of my closest friends are not in fact involved in the profession in any way. I have attended five weddings already this year and at each of those my profession has been mentioned, usually as a filler between bottles of champagne! The usual things always end up mentioned: “It must be a great job”; “You must really love animals”; “I could never put an animal to sleep.”

When these conversations are had, it seems we always underestimate just how good a job we do, how much time we devote to performing at our best and just how hard our job can be. When people ask me what the best part of my job is, I always surprise them when I talk about euthanasia. I firmly believe that the option of euthanasia is the part of the job I am most proud of and privileged to be able to perform.

Euthanasia is the exclusive domain of us as vets, but also a huge responsibility. It is a special power to possess, and is ours to use appropriately. It is our obligation to ensure we use this in order to prevent suffering, whilst also ensuring we continue to remind ourselves that life is the most precious commodity we have.

We have no divine right as vets to choose between life and death, but instead are charged with making a judgement call as to whether the quality of life is so far compromised that continuing life is no longer desirable. It is this task which is both challenging but also a privilege.

It is also important we don’t get used to “euthanasia” and remember that life is the most precious gift known to the world as we know it.

No other profession in the world can proclaim to be involved to the extent we are in life, from the start when we perform the caesarean, the lifetime where we provide prophylactic healthcare, husbandry advice and medical therapy, and at the end where we may perform euthanasia.

It is a drain on our emotions, and one only fellow vets can truly comprehend and process. Some of my friends have “horribly stressful” days but I don’t think anything can realistically compare to the euthanasia of your favourite client’s long-standing case that you have treated all its life.

Euthanasia is a concept that is exclusive to us as vets and one we must respect and use appropriately. It is also something we must endeavour to not become hardened to and remind ourselves that life is the greatest gift on earth.

We should also try to remember that those without such privileges cannot, and should not, be expected to understand the emotional drain those days where we feel we perform as many euthanasias as we do vaccinations.

Have you heard about our
IVP Membership?

A wide range of veterinary CPD and resources by leading veterinary professionals.

Stress-free CPD tracking and certification, you’ll wonder how you coped without it.

Discover more