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This week I had to put my dog of 16 years to sleep.  He was my best friend and constant companion for all those years.  I had him before I married my wife and was there for me for all the good and bad parts of my life.
After I left the vet’s office, it got me thinking about the debate of euthanasia for humans.  The ethics of it all and the common sense of it.

At one point in my life it I thought it would be a good idea.  To help a dying, suffering patient to peacefully end their lives on their terms seemed like a humane thing to do.  I saw too many patients suffer in pain for days and weeks and months before they finally died.

As I was thinking about it this week I thought, who can really make that decision?  If the patient is so ill they cannot make an informed decision, who could really make that decision for them mother, father, or child.  And then is the patient saying they want it because there s no hope for recovery, or because they have some psychiatric problem and want a way out.

Also, as a nurse could I really administer the medication, even to somebody that I knew, in my heart and mind was better put out of their suffering.

But the slippery slope really is: what is suffering?  Pain?  Difficulty breathing?  Heart Failure?  Depression?  Psychiatric issues?  I think any patient suffering from one of these issues could tell you that their suffering would end if they ended their life.

Where would I, as a nurse, draw the line?  Could I administer the meds for somebody with pain from inoperable cancer that is resistant to other therapies?  Maybe.  Could I for a patient with pulmonary hypertension resistant to treatment that can’t breath?  Possibly.  Could I do it for a patient with depression so debilitating that they feel they would be better off dead?  No.

I don’t know the answer.  But I do know that I am grateful that I was able to help my dog end his suffering.

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