In thinking about Halloween this year and Day of the Dead, I’m reminded of my time working at a veterinary clinic in New Mexico for a short stint. It was wonderful and also heartbreaking – to see such wonderful friendships, such meaningful exchanges… and so many animals put down. The experience raised a lot of questions for me about ethics and death. It struck me as completely bizarre that we are perfectly comfortable (as comfortable as one can be under such circumstances) killing animals when they seem to suffer, and yet struggle to do the same for humans. I wondered why by and large it is assumed that people with pets will choose the day their pet dies. When did we get that idea?
Interestingly enough, when you search for pet euthanasia history online – nothing really comes up outside of kill trends in shelters. Meanwhile, there are countless hits for “first pet euthanasia” explaining what to expect in euthanizing a beloved pet. It is fascinating to me that ‘putting one’s pet down’ is such an assumption, that I find no background information on it. Yet, when looking up “euthanasia”, I find a great article on the history of it in humans. Evidently, the first use of the word was used by Roman historian, Suetonius, to describe a compassionate intention for an other’s death, not to describe an act of mercy killing (see section XCIX of Suetonius: De Vita Caesarum–Divus Augustus).
Surprisingly, “in ancient times physicians had a dual role: one to cure, the other was to kill,” as seen in early Greece, Israel, and India, for example. It’s apparent, however, that this was not true in all societies, and was heavily criticized come the Middle Ages. While showing compassion for those in pain was certainly a motivating force for euthanasia, so was relieving society of the “burden” (Thomas Morus, 16th C) of the terminally ill. And then… wait for it! From the very mouth of what the Encyclopedia Britannica calls “the author [best known for his]… philosophical works of unparalleled influence (italic emphasis mine),” Plato, comes the commonly quoted, never cited quote, “Mentally and physically ill persons should be left to death; they do not have the right to live.” Whoa! Wow, can you imagine your doctor telling their patient that based on the doctor’s evaluation of their physical, mental or emotional health, they didn’t have the right to live? Especially knowing the inherent power of the placebo effect, I can only imagine how damaging this suggestion could be to someone’s health. (I really wish I had a proper citation for this one….)
So, yes, long tangent into human euthanasia – but back to pets and the vet’s. Well, recently, my friend at the clinic sent out a post reminding folks to be mindful of their black cats during Halloween, that black cat abuse typically goes up around this time of year. Evidently, we’re talking about…
WHOA!!! LMAO (it shouldn’t be funny)– I swear this is what came up when I went to verify a citation from USA today on cat mutilation and beheading, as quoted on Snopes.com. What is that image even doing on a news website?
Alright, well, maybe we’ll just call it quits here! Take it easy out there tonight; and be mindful of those in need!
p.s. Let it be known, as a Reiki Master and East Asian Medicine Practitioner, I believe you have the right to live, no matter what! You are a divine manifestation in this universe–worthy of love, compassion, understanding, connection, safety and hope! May you be well; may you be happy!