We’ve had a streak of cases this week where the animal is clearly, even to one of the owners, suffering, and the spouse flatly refuses to put the animal down. Some of these cases are horrifying, really; we had one couple sit there and watch their dog shit and vomit blood for hours, groaning in pain despite being on high doses of narcotics, too weak to even roll up on his chest without assistance, and despite the fact there was nothing more for us to do, the husband still refused to put the poor guy to sleep. (He wanted to take the dog home to die, which the wife begged us to talk him out of.) Hell, he refused to even sign a DNR form, so when the dog arrested after almost 16 hours of pure hell, we had to code him. One of the techs who was there at the time said when they intubated him, blood shot out of the tube and halfway across the ICU. The wife could have signed the euthanasia form, or the DNR form, as she was present and is also considered the legal owner, but she chose not to.
Last night, we had a case where the wife was insistent on taking the dog home to die (she had a packed cell volume of 9%, which means she had essentially no capacity to carry oxygen to her tissues and was going to suffocate if they didn’t euthanize or transfuse.) She wasn’t going to euthanize the poor dog, no way, no how, not a snowball’s chance in hell. The husband was at first willing to go along with that, even after he asked me if the dog was going to suffocate and I said yes, the air would come in and out her lungs just fine, but she wouldn’t be getting any oxygen because the stuff that absorbs and carries the oxygen to the tissues just wasn’t there any longer. Then, when we presented him with the AMA form, he finally asked, “Well if she’s suffocating now, and she’s going to continue to suffocate, why are we doing this?” He signed the euthanasia form, and let his wife decide what kind of aftercare she wanted.
So I wonder, would most people be willing to overrule their spouses in such a matter? Would it matter if it were “their” pet? Would it make any difference if you felt you could no longer afford to continue treatment, as opposed to just thinking it was time to give up?
Personally, I like to think that all major decisions would be made jointly, and that we’re both able to be objective enough about the medical realities of the situation that we’d agree on whether or not to euthanize. If we didn’t, though, and one of our pets was suffering, I’d sign that authorization in a heartbeat no matter what he said. Even on Maggie, who was always his cat, both in terms of legal ownership and emotional attachment. He’s not putting any of them through that, not while there is breath in my body, no matter how painful it is for him to let go. I honestly believe that he’d do the same if I were the one refusing to euthanize.