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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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Rob Cameron

Rob Cameron is currently a staff nurse in a level II trauma center. He has primarily been an ED nurse for most of his career, but he has also been a nurse manager for Surgical Trauma and Telemetry unit. He has worked in Med/Surg, Critical Care, Hospice, Rehab, an extremely busy cardiology clinic and pretty much anywhere he's been needed.Prior to his career in nursing, Rob worked in healthcare finance and management. Rob feels this experience has given him a perspective on nursing that many never see. He loves nursing because of all the options he has within the field. He is currently a grad student working on an MSN in nursing leadership, and teaches clinicals at a local university.Away from work, Rob spends all of his time with his wife and daughter. He enjoys cycling and Crossfit. He is a die hard NASCAR fan. Sundays you can find Rob watching the race with his daughter.

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3 Responses to Euthanasia

  1. Sean Dent

    I always think about the ‘old yeller’ reference. Wait, no it was from ‘of mice and men’. They take the aged old dog out back and shoot ’em to put him out of his misery – ” Ain’t I as good as dog?”
    A very loose comparison, but you get the point. Sorry for your loss Rob. Glad you could end his suffering too.

  2. Diane Kirse, RN, BSN

    I believe that we should do everything possible to end the suffering of those who have a terminal disease or injury. My husband, who like myself, has been a nurse for 32 years. Recently, for the first time in his life, he was in the hospital. During this period he suffered some painful procedures. I had always known that he would not want to suffer from pain and discomfort should he become terminally ill, but I really finally understood how important it was also that he not be allowed to suffer through an illness that would leave him unable to care for himself. He is a very independent person and very rarely accepted assistance from anyone, no matter how much pain he was in. This is a man that will not live under the care of others. I know that I would feel the same and I have made very strict end of life decisions in writing to instruct those around me of what I want. Should I suffer an injury that I know will leave me to depend on others for my care for the rest of my life, I want to be placed on hospice care and allowed to die.

  3. Joanne Rogers

    The long-term care unit where I work has a hospice section, and I’ve seen the importance of relieving pain and helping them get as much life as possible in their last days. Pain relief may require high doses of morphine, but after they habituate to the dose, this is not going to kill them. Euthanasia is a long way from relieving pain or dyspnea.