NORMAN — Dear Dr. Fox: My 15-year-old terrier mix, Betsy, started throwing up and had diarrhea. Blood tests showed kidney and liver issues and her heart is weak.
The veterinarian wants to do a liver biopsy and endoscopy to check for inflammatory bowel disease. This will cost more than $1,000, and I cannot afford that, being on a fixed income.
What do you advise? My old dog is very weak and I don’t want her to suffer.
— W.S.P., Alexandria, Va.
Dear W.S.P.: I have received several letters like yours recently and have discussed this trend in companion animal veterinary care in my recent book, “Healing Animals & the Vision of One Health.” “Life-saving” interventions in the terminally ill that prolong suffering should be viewed as “death-delaying” interferences.
In my opinion, this is the stigma of the health care provided by some medical and veterinary professionals whose focus is more on the organs and systems of the body than on the whole patient.
The life-saving quest becomes an intellectual challenge that is driven less by compassion than by the enchantment of biomedical technologies and a mechanistic attitude toward life and the living. Future generations will surely look back on these times in disbelief that death was delayed in the terminally ill and suffering was protracted.
But now, thanks to the human and veterinary hospice movement, the cultural attitude toward death is changing. Ask your veterinarian for a referral to a hospice care veterinarian who will provide your old dog with palliative care in your home. I have details about this new service on my website, DrFoxVet.com.
Dear Dr. Fox: A recent column dealt with a writer’s fear that your condemnation of commercial food keeps people from adopting a rescued animal. Here’s another reason: