Blue Juice

Blue Juice: Euthanasia in Veterinary Medicine

Patricia Morris
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 244
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  • Book Info
    Blue Juice
    Book Description:

    Offering a candid behind-the-scenes look at small-animal veterinary practices,Blue Juiceexplores the emotional and ethical conflicts involved in providing a "good death" for companion animals. Patricia Morris presents a nuanced ethnographic account of how veterinarians manage patient care and client relations when their responsibility shifts from saving an animal's life to negotiating a decision to end it.Using her own experiences and observations in veterinary settings as well as the voices of seasoned and novice vets, Morris reveals how veterinarians think about euthanasia and why this "dirty work" often precipitates "burnout," moral quandaries, and even tense or emotional interactions with clients. Closely observing these interactions, Morris illuminates the ways in which euthanasia reflects deep and unresolved tension in human-animal relationships.Blue Juiceseeks to understand how practitioners, charged with the difficult task of balancing the interests of animals and their humans, deal with the responsibility of ending their patients' lives.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0707-8
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Introduction: Euthanasia in Veterinary Medicine
    (pp. 1-18)

    As companion animals, or pets, increasingly become part of American households and, for some, a valued part of the family, the termination of an animal’s life has also become the purview of veterinarians. Time and time again, small-animal veterinarians, like the professor in the opening quotation, explained to me how euthanasia has changed. In today’s veterinary offices, veterinarians and their human clients share in the experience of an animal companion being “put to sleep.” For veterinarians, this event is routine, as they may orchestrate it daily in their work. For many pet owners, having made the agonizing decision to euthanize,...

  5. 1 Negotiating Death: Managing Disagreement with Pet Owners
    (pp. 19-48)

    During the course of my research, I was invited to attend a one-day seminar on euthanasia required of third-year students at my local veterinary college. Though truly grateful for the opportunity to sit in on the day’s events, I must admit that an early morning discussion of the pharmacological effects of euthanasia drugs on biological systems was not how I was hoping to start my day. While I acknowledge that this subject is important to veterinarians, I still wished I had overslept. I began to perk up when the lectures turned to an analysis of different methods for providing animals...

  6. 2 Creating a Good Death: The Dramaturgy of Veterinary Euthanasia
    (pp. 49-79)

    The care that veterinarians take to create a good euthanasia experience for their animal patients and human clients first became clear to me during a brief but poignant exchange with an intern. Often owners who choose not to be present during euthanasia wish to spend time with the pet’s body before it is cremated. While walking down a long corridor carrying the body of a cat we had just euthanized out for the owner to view, the intern said to me, “Hey, does this cat look dead to you?” I responded, “Well I guess so; it isactuallydead.” The...

  7. 3 Strange Intimacy: Managing Pet Owners’ Emotions
    (pp. 80-105)

    Today’s companion-animal veterinarians not only attend to the death of their animal patients; they must also deal with emotionally distraught clients before and after they have made the difficult decision to end the life of their companion animal. As seen in Chapter 2, veterinarians work to manage pet owners’ impressions of their animal’s death such that they have a good last memory of their animal and think of euthanasia as a positive experience. In addition to managing owners’ impressions, veterinarians consider managing their emotions important to the creation of an overall good death, a successful euthanasia. Yet allowing owners to...

  8. 4 Learning to Euthanize: Death and the Novice Veterinarian
    (pp. 106-135)

    Similar to any novice to an unknown subculture, I entered the daily lives of veterinarians with only anticipations of what I might experience and how I might think, feel, and behave. First and foremost, I had to adjust to sights and smells that initially made me woozy. During the early stages of my fieldwork, I found it especially difficult to hide my physical discomfort with nauseating puss-filled wounds and the body storage and cremation areas. However, after a few solid weeks of transporting dead animals’ remains, I became so accustomed to them that I could easily eat food in the...

  9. 5 Coping with Euthanasia: Emotion-Management Strategies
    (pp. 136-169)

    All veterinary encounters are carefully negotiated, triangular interactions involving the veterinarian, the human client, and the animal patient. Because the animal is nonverbal and basically powerless to participate in any consultation, the client and veterinarian must determine the animal’s problem and negotiate an outcome for the patient.¹ As both service providers to their human clients and medical professionals to their animal patients, the divided responsibilities can be difficult for veterinarians to balance, causing them difficult ethical dilemmas.² As seen in Chapter 1, conflicts between veterinarians and their clients can occur for many reasons. For example, veterinarians may differ from their...

  10. Conclusion: Animals as Property and Patients
    (pp. 170-186)

    From my first few days in the world of veterinary medicine until my very last day, the ambiguous social status of companion animals was visually clear to me. On any given day, in one room of an animal hospital sits a healthy two-year-old cat scheduled to be put to sleep because his owners can’t afford the relatively simple procedure required to unblock his urethra and return him to good health. Across the hall sits a fourteen-year-old, blind, paralyzed dog getting thousands of dollars of surgical care and around-the-clock life-sustaining treatment in hopes of buying his owners another few months with...

  11. Appendix: Methodology
    (pp. 187-192)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 193-204)
  13. References
    (pp. 205-226)
  14. Index
    (pp. 227-230)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 231-231)