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Euthanasia: is it right or wrong? It’s ok to put our pets out of their misery, but for humans, it’s a different story

Mother 2013Euthanasia – is it right or wrong? There’s little thought given to this question when it’s our pet that is suffering with a terminal illness. But with humans, it’s a whole different story.

When is it time to let go?

That brings rise to the question: When is it time to let go of this life and move to the hereafter, wherever and whatever it may be? Should we be allowed to choose when it’s time, or must we wait, for however long, for nature to take its course?

For pets, we can help them make that choice. For humans, we cannot. We can take our cats or dogs to the vet and have an injection to end their suffering, and let them go to the Rainbow Bridge, where we hope to meet them in the hereafter. For humans, we can choose to without treatments, not resuscitate, and not undertake life-saving measures, but to undergo treatments that will make them more comfortable. We also look forward to re-uniting in a world beyond. But we wait…..

With Paws diagnoses of FHC, it brings me to take pause about this subject. Little Yellow has a terminalLittle Yellow Cat disease. Is he suffering? Will medicine help him? When will I have to make the decision to end his life? Or will he, and his health, make that decision for me? Will I come home some night and find him dead? Will he die in front of my eyes? Will he die in my lap, or will he crawl off and hide in a dark corner, and I’ll notice that he’s not there some morning, and I’ll go look and find him…..

For Tubby, who had FIP, there was no question but to end his life. He was so weak he could hardly walk. He couldn’t even go up and down stairs. It hurt, so bad, but it was the right, and only thing to do. I took him to the vet, and had a needle put an end to his suffering.

It also brings me pause, because my mom, my human mom, has Alzheimer’s. She has lost all of her activities of daily living. She cannot feed herself. She is hoisted from her bed to a wheelchair by a lift. At times, she can still speak. She laughs a lot – sometimes. She was just released from hospice, even though she seems to have developed a chronic cough, and have oxygen at her bedside – to keep her comfortable.

motherchristmasparty2010My mom was my best friend. I called her at least once a week my entire life. I spend five years living with her. WE traveled together. There are lots of memories. I just can’t share them with her. It rips me apart every time I go into the home to visit. I got at least once a week. Sometimes, I wonder why? She doesn’t remember. But it’s the right thing to do. She’s well taken care of, so I don’t have to worry about that, but…

Little Yellow is responding to his medicine – even though it is difficult to get him to cooperate. He is playing a little bit. He likes that I felt guilty about his diagnosis, and now let him go outside to play while I’m doing lawn work. He’s happy to join the other big cats, and frolic in the grass, and soak up the sun on the deck.

Mom, is she happy. She laughs a lot – sometimes. She is not ugly or mean. But she does become frustrated. When I visit, she tends to doze a lot. It’s hard to keep her engaged.mother3

Why is it that we can make the choice to pull the plug on animals, and yet humans must linger? Last November, upon returning from the Cat Writer’s Association Conference, I was greeted with her telling me her goodbyes. “I won’t be here much longer,” she told me as she took my hand. She had battled with urinary track infections, and was loosing her ADL’s. I truly believed it was her time and that she would not be here for Christmas, six week’s away.

Six months later, she has rallied, if you call it that. She can no longer feed herself. She, who used to love to indulge in ice cream and sweets, no longer has any interest in them. She doesn’t understand much of what I say, unless I talk about the cats, or make some silly comment. She has no understanding of my life, or that of my siblings. She has no recollection of home, family, or place, the farm, the horses, my dad…

Little Yellow, on the contrary, has a kitty understanding that he’s feeling better. While he cannot tell me how he feels, he certainly shows it as he snuggled in my arms like a tiny baby. I can tell that he’s grateful for what I’m doing for him – just not those pills.

If one believes in a hereafter, we must ask, why? Why is little Yellow born with a congenital heart disease? Why does my mom, my best friend linger with Alzheimer’s?

I wish for a few years ahead with Yellow. I wish that he becomes healthy and can play and snuggle.

I wish my mom would find peace in the hereafter, and not be trapped in purgatory, between life and death. I love my mom beyond belief. She’s the greatest, my best friend forever, but….she’s gone. She is still alive, but she’s gone. Every visit finds a little bit more taken away.

This is a paradox. We can choose to make the decision for our pets to end their suffering. We cannot do that for humans. We must wait for nature to take its course. While I’m not a proponent of euthanasia in many circumstances, I do wonder, why?

Life, death, euthanasia – these are all very complex issues, for pets we love, and for our humans. We put millions of pets every year in shelters because people discard them like used clothing. Many are euthanized because there just isn’t enough space for them. Perhaps, if we allowed, our humans to be put out of their misery, this same scenario would develop. We’d end their lives because there wasn’t enough space for the sick and the elderly in nursing homes.

Don’t get me wrong. I would not, nor could not, make the decision to play God when it comes to my Mom, but I wonder, why???? I felt like I was playing God when I made the decision that she could not longer stay home – because she wandered up and down the streets putting her safety at risk. I wonder “Why does she linger? How far advanced must the disease get before she let’s go? Many say, you must give them permission to go. I have. My siblings have. And we continue down the heart-wrenching painful journey of watching her mind and abilities waste away. It’s hard to remember what a great cook and seamstress she was. Even the memories, for her, are gone forever.

If you have thoughts about this issue, please share.

12 responses to “Euthanasia: is it right or wrong? It’s ok to put our pets out of their misery, but for humans, it’s a different story”

  1. Bonnie Avatar

    I work at a Vet clinic & help clients go throu this diffcult choice of treatment or saying goodbye. As one Vet here said : God gave us to be caretakers of the animals, so we decide whats best for them. But we belong to God, so he decides for us. All I can think of is people like your Mother must be touching somebodys’ life, or maybe you are the inspiration for someone else going throu the same ordeal. Watching the love & care you still give her , even thou she may not remember, you are still there……….

    1. BJ Avatar

      I think you are right. I’m not sure what the message is, but there has to be a reason for this.

  2. Kathleen Cronin Avatar
    Kathleen Cronin

    My heart goes out to you and all you have to endure. As a retired nurse I have watched and helped families struggle with these desitions and there are no easy answers. I also like to believe that people with AD don’t realize they are sick or a burden and even if they do they’ll forget it anyway.

  3. Diana Gregory Avatar
    Diana Gregory

    A question, and issue, I have thought of for many years, especially when my dad had cancer. With him, it would have been a no-brainer decision to let him go – he was completely doped up on morphine for the last 4-5 weeks until he died between doses. For someone like your mom, it is harder to know the answer. I, too, hope that I never become a burden. And will continue to be kinder to my cats than I can to my human friends and relatives. I actually am on one friend’s medical POA because she felt I would be more willing to make the call to pull the plug than any of her family, if it got to that.


  4. askfisher Avatar

    It is very hard for humans to not fear death. It is sad see loved ones going through such pain when their death is inevitable. That includes our pets. A lot of love goes into letting go.

  5. Louise behiel Avatar
    Louise behiel

    Great post. My mom too has AD. And lately it’s getting much worse. She has aggressive outbursts and now is having delusions. Tragic to watch her disintegrate like this. Tragic. She is depressed and anxious all the time. Is that any quality of life?

  6. Sally Bahner Avatar
    Sally Bahner

    I am such a control freak that I would end my life if I was diagnosed with terminal cancer or Alzheimer’s — while I am still of sound mind. I just would not put anyone through the burden of caring for me under those circumstances.
    I would want to be cremated with the ashes for all my kitties mixed with mine.

    1. BJ Avatar

      Sally: I would tend to agree. Your comment makes me think about the book “Still Alice”. She got a pill to end her life, but waited till the right time. With Alzheimer’s, she forgot where she put it. Very sad.

  7. Sparkle Avatar

    I am so sorry for what you and your mom are having to go through. I think maybe kitties do have it better than humans in this regard…

    1. BJ Avatar

      Thank you for your kind words. Indeed this whole issue is quite a paradox.

  8. Kat Gagliano Avatar
    Kat Gagliano

    I am very sorry your mother has been suffering with this disease so many years. My own grandmother lasted for 10 years with this horrible disease. My father now 87 fears it, but so far only a bit of senility for him. I was raised Christian and in the bible the people in a typical family were treated with respect, made comfortable as best they could, even given crude treatments to try to heal, and in the end, buried with dignity. They didn’t have the means to treat people even close to what we have today, but I suspect they would be like we are today, caring for them until it is time to leave this earth. Animals were used for work and food, possibly some pets way back then, I don’t think anyone knows for sure. I think the cultures over the centuries did euthanize a sick or injured animal. That is my theory of why it is believed to be ok to euthanize animals. I am sure there are as many other opinions to this as there are people in the world, but that is my 2 cents. Having lost several pets over the years I have to say it is one of the hardest things to do. To loose your pet to an illness or disease and have to give them that final nudge to release them leaves a hollow – it was the right thing to do, it was time to let go. I prayed each one would go in their sleep but sadly no. So lastly I hope you have some comfort in this sad time of life and later have the memories warm your soul.

    1. BJ Avatar

      Indeed it is a horrible disease. I guess the best thing is they don’t seem to be in pain.

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