NORMAN — Dear Dr. Fox: In your dreams or in working with sick animals as they pass on, have you ever gotten a sense from them of how they feel about humans ending their lives when they are ill?
Although we rationalize it as the most caring and compassionate thing to do, do we really have the right to do that to other beings? How do the animals think and feel about it?
— R.B., Philadelphia
Dear R.B.: In my experience euthanizing animals and my limited experience with hospice care for humans, fear is the biggest issue. People and animals who know that they are going to die and are not at peace or feel insecure need all the help that caregivers can provide to make the transition as smooth as possible.
I have met all my beloved deceased animals in my dreams. Some of them did not have smooth exits, but all of them are shining with happiness now. While that could be my own psyche helping me feel good, I believe that there is irrefutable evidence of life after life.
I contend that it is our duty to liberate animals under our care from intractable, incurable suffering. They have ways of letting us know they’re OK once we get through our own guilt, anger, helplessness, depression and other feelings that can sweep over us when we relive the events leading up to the time when a humane death — euthanasia — is administered.
In some instances, animals, like people, and their loved ones are blessed with an easy passage, dying in their sleep or in the arms of their loved ones without any anesthetic or pain-, heart- and brain-stopping medications. Empathy and compassion must take precedence over extending life at all costs.
I hope that this response helps answer these questions. I must add that some people have not come to terms with accepting death and do not appreciate the emotional exhaustion and ethical burden on many caregivers, as evidenced when they berate me for suggesting to readers that they should have their animals euthanized.