Why is pet euthanasia okay but people euthanasia not?

Thread over in IMHO started by a poster who had to put her dog down, and after a few years is getting another. Posted by way of example only.

So, most people would say that euthanasia is wrong, and that you shouldn’t kill someone just because they’re in the last stages of life and suffering.

The same people usually genuinely feel that putting down a beloved pet which is suffering is a kindness.

What’s the difference? Especially given that people can consent (or could, if it was legal) and dogs/cats/whatever can’t?


That’s your answer.

Pets are not people. There are different standards. I would not help a person euthanize themselves due to religious and societal beliefs, but I would have no problem euthanizing a pet (if I owned one) if it had a terminal illness or I otherwise thought it was suffering too much. I don’t feel that way with people, though sometimes I wonder if it should be allowed if they’re terminal and want it.

I’m sure you can find even more people who eat meat and think cannibalism is wrong. Or people who think sex between two humans is okay, but bestiality is wrong. Or who think that harnessing horse to a plow is okay, but slavery is wrong.

Why? Because people tend to make a dividing line between “people” and “animals” in their minds. What holds true for one group doesn’t necessarily hold true for the other. And I’d bet that you do the same, somewhere along the line.

There are a very few people who don’t, who honestly view pet ownership as slavery and eating meat as murder, and we tend to call them “whackjobs”.

Why can my cat legally enjoy the experience of writhing and drooling under the influence of catnip and I can’t even snort heroin? It’s unfair, I tells ya!

The question is “why?”

Do any of those people eat meat or harness horses out of kindness to the animal?

Regardless of what cats may think, we are ‘gods’ for our pets. We create their environment, we allow them in or out, we provide them food water we can even have the night illuminated as day. Yes some can get some of these by themselves, but not consistently and as easily. We also can proved medical care much advanced to their ability. We are the higher ‘parent’ ‘god’ ‘loving’ beings, and they are the lower ‘child’ ‘worshiper’ ‘beloved’ beings.

We also get to decide for them, because of our role and our relationship (loving parent to loved child), if they should continue to live or not (or appeal to our higher gods, which we are the beloved children, and they are the loving parents) given hard circumstances.

With humans we are on the same level. Even doctors are not at the level of parents (gods) to the patients as children, but we all are just children treating children, it is not our decision to make on another equal being, we need to take it to our god or gods, to a level with more advanced care sight and wisdom and let them make the decision.

I think that depends where you look - and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if most objections are religious. In any case, euthanasia is legal (if carried out according to the pretty strict regulations) in a few European countries including mine and even some US states. I’ve had some talks with friends and family about this topic recently (involving a father of a friend of mine) and nobody seemed to be fundamentally opposed, though I heard the more strictly religious acquaintances of the person in question were kept completely in the dark.

ETA: of course, the main difference between humans and animals is that we humans can usually indicate our own wishes clearly. Including the wish to die if the alternative is months of suffering before death. And I certainly have no objection to honoring those requests.

Irrelevant. You asked why. The why is that people consider animals and humans different things and so apply different rules.

Look, you want to debate euthanasia, and I’ll be there championing Dr. Kevorkian all the way. I think suicide is the ultimate inalienable human right, and people who perform assisted suicide the closest thing we have to angels walking the earth. But if you want to know *why *some people - I don’t know that I agree with “most”, unless you’re limiting your selection by age or religion - are okay with euthanizing their pets and not their mothers, I gave that answer.

To get serious for a moment: There are both cultural (ie: religious) reasons and practical reasons why human euthanasia is discouraged. The religious reasons generally boil down to: “Don’t play God”. The practical reasons tend to cluster around the possibility that the practice would be abused.

Thus, you have concerns that, once the practice became established, it would be performed against the will of the patient, either by doctors who think they know better than the patient, or by heirs who are anxious to get their hands on the estate, or by insurance companies or governments who don’t want to shell out any more money for treatment.

You also have concerns that patients themselves will elect for euthanasia even if their condition is temporary and treatable, whether due to depression, financial concerns, or just not wanting to be a bother.

These may or may not be valid concerns, and it may be possible to design safeguards into any euthanasia protocol, but it is certainly easy to see why these and other practical issues raise questions.

Should have been a poll. I’d like to know exactly what fraction constitute the “same people” there–I think acceptance of merciful euthanasia, or assisted suicide, is rising. They’ve got it in the states of Washington and Oregon.

As I said in The ethics of suicide, I see the right to choose a time of ending of one’s own life as being a natural right. So certainly in a terminal medical situation, I’d say assisted suicide should be available.

The ethics of allowing others to make such a decision for someone obviously become more difficult, but “living wills” at least begin to address this. (The lines can be unclear, too, between maintaining a life by normal versus “extraordinary” medical measures, versus a sort of passive euthanasia of “witholding” some element of medical maintenance.)

Just an observation.

I think in the not so distance future, the majority opinion will be human euthanasia will be considered quite reasonable. Heck, they might even look back to our times and wonder what the hell we were thinking.

I think it just takes time for religion to adjust to changing moral theories/popular opinion.

Also, I suspect a fair number of anti-euthanasia folks would change their mind or at least temper the strength of their convictions a bit after being thoroughly involved in the long, painful death of someone very close to them in which the relatively short extension of that life only served to extend the length and level of suffering.

It’s not the whole answer, but it’s definitely the foundation of why America hasn’t yet accepted human euthanasia as non-taboo. Essentially, as long as you’re still breathing, you have a chance to accept (or reject) Jesus Christ as your Lord And Savior and therefore save (or damn) your soul. (For many Calvinists, damnation of souls is more delectable than salvation…but that’s a bit off topic…)

Absent any moral issues, however, my guess is that most people are merely addicted to life itself, and everything that goes with it, to the degree where they can’t imagine actually wanting to die – unless you’ve been afflicted with an injury or disease which becomes intolerable, you can’t imagine how anyone would feel in that situation.

Euthanasia’s already legal in places such as The Netherlands, even for non-lethal (and presumably treatable) conditions like depression.

We have tended to confuse a “respect for (human) life” with our (default) assumption that the greatest good is a long-as-possible life. As a consequence, we look upon any extension of life as serving a greater good than any earlier termination, be it accidental or deliberate.

As you imply, this is not very consistent (we don’t think that way for animals, e.g.) and it’s not particularly defensible.

It is a practically useful approach in modern medicine. “Just do everything” because “you can’t put a price on a human life.” (In fact, of course, we can put a price on it–a price that is bankrupting us–and such an approach is opposite what most people would want were they able to express their wishes.)

It’s also a practical approach to avoid a slippery slope of ever-increasing expansion of the scope of euthanasia until we are snacking on soylent green wafers.

But it’s pretty clear to me at least that there is no reasonable argument for why pet euthanasia is OK and people euthanasia is not. Both are fundamental efforts to make gentle judgments and relieve suffering for the hopeless. And although it’s not absolutely universal, it’s a pretty common personal decision for us to not want to live beyond the point that most of us would consider euthanasia for our pets.

I’ve certainly made my own decision not to live beyond certain decision points, and I’ve beaten into my family that they better make that decision for me if I can’t make it for myself.

I wouldn’t empty my bank account, sell everything I have, and take out loans to pay for expensive medical care to save or extend the life of an animal, as I would for a loved one. Given that, the next kindest option seems to be putting the suffering animal down.

People should ultimately be able to make their own choices, but I worry that my loved ones might choose death rather than subject me to expenses or long-term caregiving that they think are not worth it.

Just an anecdote, but my mom was extremely ill, had been for years and was depressed with a low quality of life. Religion was pretty much the only thing that kept her slogging along. She went in for an operation that was supposed to help with some pain, and she made it clear that if she died during the procedure she was not to be revived. Because of her poor health, even this routine surgery could easily have killed her. Instead, the doctor actually discovered what was wrong during the course of the operation, and she is now, 5 years later, doing very well for an elderly woman, being productive and enjoying life. In a culture where euthanasia was more accepted, I doubt she would be a part of my life anymore.

I agree with some of the above posters. I think the value of animals and the potential for abuse really are the two most important for non-religious objections to euthanasia.

Basically, if you get it wrong with a pet–euthanizing when there was another option–well, it was a pet. If you put down Fluffy at 14 years instead of 15, well, that sucks, but Fluffy had it good and pets are valued but not people.

And there’s little incentive to bump Fluffy off. The only way you gain by eliminating Fluffy is avoiding the medical bills or maybe some inconvenience, and you can just avoid the medical bills by refusing to treat whatever it is Fluffy might be suffering from. But when it comes to grandma, there might be all sorts of reasons you want to get rid of her.

Now, I don’t really agree with either of these objections. I think they are real and should be addressed, but I don’t think they make it a dealbreaker. But because we value grandma more than Fluffy, these are going to remain concerns.

And then there’s the soul patrol, of course, but someone else can deal with that.

Really? Cite?

I think Violet from the comic strip *Peanut*s has the answer

There are some pet owners, perhaps many, who would do anything to treat Fluffy and keep her living for a good number of years even if she was suffering, but I think even many of those people would still euthanize Fluffy when it became clear that her time was up, while they wouldn’t do the same for humans.

There’s a difference between “euthanasia”, and standing by when someone rationally decides to kill themselves.

If you decide to euthanize your pet, the pet doesn’t get a vote, because the pet can’t talk. If you decide to euthanize your mom, does your mom get a vote? Of course she does. And since your mom gets a vote, why do YOU get a vote? If your mom wants to kill herself there’s no way we can stop her for very long.

So ethical euthanasia would have to be restricted to people who are mentally incompetent, or permanently unconscious. Because otherwise, it’s not up to you, it’s up to them, and if it’s up to them it’s not euthanasia, it’s assisted suicide. And people who are severely physically disabled can kill themselves, even if it’s a scenario like, “Well, you’re in extreme pain due to losing your arms and legs. We’ve hooked you up to this morphine drip that you can control with your eyelids. Give yourself as much as you want, but be careful because if you blink more than 20 times in a row the dosage will suppress your breathing and you’ll die painlessly.”

And this is how Kevorkian operated for decades, and this is why he never went to jail. Until he videotaped himself injecting the drugs himself, instead of rigging up an apparatus that would let the patient do it. For some reason, the assisted suicide scenario wasn’t good enough for him, and so he ended up in prison.