Why is it ok to euthanize a pet but not another person?

Reading through this thread about a dying dog, there seems to be a near-universal consensus for the dog to be put to sleep, since it is clearly in a lot of pain.

Why is it that, in general, there is much less acceptance when it comes to euthanizing terminally-ill humans who are in just as much pain, able to express it, and wishing for death?

No logical reason. I suspect a lot of it is religion: “thou shalt not kill,” playing God, etc. None of that comes into play if it’s just an animal.

It should be OK if it’s in accordance with the express wish of the person. I think dying with your loved one holding you, when you’re ready, without dragging out your suffering, is one of the greatest acts of kindness and love you can offer. I do it for my pets when the time is right and I feel it’s my moral obligation. I hope someone will do it for me if it ever comes to that, and that they don’t have to risk jail time to do it either.

Rubystreak, well put.

  1. Killing a dog isn’t a fellony
  2. A dogs life does not equate to a humans
  3. People generally take offense to being “put down like a dog”
  4. Dogs are not sentient (or sapient) creatures.
  5. Humans normally have a natural aversion to killing other humans
  6. It’s just a dog.

Oregon has a Death with Dignity Act.

Yay, Us. I have no problem with euthanasia for people; I voted for the Death with Dignity Act.

Me, too.

The OP asked the question: Why is it ok to euthanize a pet but not another person?

My answer is
It is not ok to treat our pets better than we treat our loved ones.

I am happy to say my home state of Washington just passed I-1000, the so called “Death with Dignity” law in the November election.

I hope more states will follow the lead of Oregon and Washington.

It is a horrible task watching a loved one die a painful drawn out death as they plead for release.

We should show our loved ones the same compassion we show our beloved pets.

more information http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/elder_law/2008/11/washington-stat.html

Witholding this release is one of the more cruel things religion is doing to us today.

The pets usually haven’t done anything to deserve the suffering. </misanthropy>

I think the core reason is the fear of death. We don’t want to accept our universal inevitable fate, and taking actve steps to hasten this fate is an acceptance of what we want to deny.

The fear of death is one of the core motivations behind the religious impulse. No small wonder that religious people are still afraid to die even though they are supposed to have the most to gain from it.

It can be.

Neither here nor there. A dog is a dog a human is a human.

Right but this doesn’t address the question. The question is why the dichotomy exist.

How do you know?

Because it propagates the species.

What does that mean?


Because we are illogical.

Because we have certain, not un-founded fears that giving anyone the right to help another human die could lead to killing those who have not consented.

Because it is so very hard to let go of our loved ones.

Because some of us are so certain that we have the answer, we are willing to impose it on others without their consent.

All in all, a very sad state of affairs. I’m glad Washington joined Oregon. I hope to see others pass a Death with Dignity law soon as well.

Seriously, religion has a part to play, no religion wants to lose it’s constituents, and most religions have very strong and sound laws about not killing other humans, but what is really driving it is what people can gain, or be seen to gain.

If your dad is terminally ill and in terrible pain it seems very natural to me that you would want to end that pain. But if you are a likely recipient of an inheritance following dad’s death then how can society be certain of your motivations, whereas we know your not going to inherit anything from your dog.

Oregon’s Death with Dignity legislation is laudable, but it only works where the person who will die is lucid and compos mentis - it is a suicide law not a euthanasia law.

For the same reason we (as a society) think it’s okay to shoot horses just for having a broken leg and most people would find the idea of paying for hospice care for their pet cat with cancer extravagant and absurd: Animal lives are not seen as being worth as much as a human life, and their value to us (as a society) is gone once their physical body is broken. Because humans have more complex emotional/intellectual lives than animals do, their existence is more than their physical body’s health, and a human whose physical body is ailing is nonetheless still capable of finding worth and meaning in life.

Why don’t we just take terminally ill people’s word for it when they tell us they’re ready to die?
Probably because there are many motivations for wanting to die that don’t have to do with the illness itself. It is possible for someone who is ill to want to die out of a fear of being a “burden” to everyone else, or to be pressured into it by relatives who don’t want to be stuck caring for the ill person.
It’s also possible that the person might elect for suicide because of fear about how living with the disease will be that’s actually not based in the reality of modern comfort care/hospice practices. The hospice movement is a relatively new phenomenon and so a lot of people have terrible fears about a death full of suffering that may be based on their memories of seeing loved ones die decades ago, rather than being aware of the modern options for comfort with hospice care.
Another reason is that it is possible for terminally ill people to be genuinely clinically depressed - in fact, depression is sometimes a symptom of some serious medical conditions. Just imagine what would happen if a suicidal teenager was told, “Well, if you feel THAT bad about your life, go right ahead!” rather than given some hope and encouragement to overcome their despair. Many people go through a period of grief and despair when first given a bad diagnosis, but then find some source of comfort or meaning in the experience.

If suicide for physical pain becomes more widely accepted, it would not surprise me at all if there was a rise in suicide for all reasons just because many people would decide that drawing the line at physical suffering (when emotional pain can be just as profound and crippling) is arbitrary.
In fact, even with physical illness, the criteria for what’s a “good enough” reason to kill yourself is arbitrary since research is constantly ongoing into improving the longevity and quality of life for many illnesses.
20 years ago, getting diagnosed with HIV or AIDS would have seemed like a great reason to kill yourself since everyone “knew” it was a death sentence - yet, nowadays, we DO have some effective treatments that have allowed some people who were diagnosed with the illness during those bad old days to live many worthwhile years of life that they would have missed out on if they had been swiftly euthanized back then.

If it became commonplace for people with serious illnesses to kill themselves, you’d in fact reduce the motivation for research into finding good treatments or cures. Why would it be in a pharmaceutical company’s interest to try to research a cure for terrible illnesses like ALS or Alzheimer’s Disease if the majority of people with such diagnoses started killing themselves early in the disease process and it was a struggle to find enough of such patients to even participate in clinical trials to get the drug approved for use?

So there ya go. A few reasons why someone might oppose euthanasia that have nothing to do with religion. How do ya like that for thinking outside the box? :wink:

I think this is an important distinction. In animal euthanasia, the owners are making the choice for their pets. Nobody knows if the pets would want that, or if they would prefer to get more pain meds and palliative care and die on their own, or if they would prefer the treatment that the owner refuses the vet to administer (whether because of finances or other beliefs). But the owner does not inherit nor gain anything from the animal’s death, and in fact loses a loved companion.

In humans, first of all nobody is somebody else’s owner, and second, how can you be sure that less than noble intentions are being sought by killing the suffering relative?

Thanks, all. These are all good responses.

I’m pro-suicide, pro-euthanasia myself, but it’s nice to hear some logical explanations from the other side. Food for thought. Keep ‘em comin’ =)

I’m fully in favor of voluntary euthanasia, but I think this is isn’t the best way to frame the question. Almost all of us regard human life as more important than other animal life, so they’re not treated the same.

False! It’s too bad you couldn’t see the way my dog moped around the house when I brought a kitty home for my then GF. The damn dog wouldn’t have nothing to do with me for three days.