Veterinary aid-in-dying is the term I use to describe what we are doing when we offer a dying pet the gift of a gentle, supported death. Most people are familiar with the term “euthanasia” which does refer to providing a “good death”, however there is a distinction that I believe is worthy of note. “Euthanasia” is a broad term. It can equally apply to circumstances where a humane death is provided for animals who no one wants to care for, animals who otherwise would be healthy enough to live well. They receive a humane and gentle death, often with great care, but the death is not always in that individual animal’s best interests.
The distinction I wish to make is that when we choose veterinary aid-in-dying we are making this choice precisely because it is in our pet’s best interest.
Just as dying people in Canada have the right to ask for medical aid-in-dying, I believe that animals who are in the process of dying, and at risk of suffering, should have access to the gentlest death possible. For the people who love them, who struggle with the monumental responsibility of making this choice for their beloved pet, I hope veterinary aid-in-dying emphasizes the intent behind the choice. I hope it acknowledges that they are making this exceedingly difficult decision to let their loved one go, at great cost to their bruised hearts, precisely because, and only because, it is the very best thing they can offer their pet at this exceedingly difficult time.
As they think about the story of their pet’s life and their part in it, I hope this helps them find peace within the process, even as they grieve a great loss.