Social Question

jazmina88's avatar

Why do we put animals to sleep, but humans are expected to suffer until the very end?

Asked by jazmina88 (11600 points ) March 18th, 2010

There was that euthunasia dr. from Michigan back in the day. To take cancer patients and maybe some elderly, all very willingly, away from the suffering they endured on a daily level. That was shut down quickly.

When our beloved pets are sick beyond repair, we take them out of their misery, out of love and respect. We dont want them to suffer.

Do we respect our pets more than human dignity?

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62 Answers

Snarp's avatar

This is an interesting way of looking at euthanasia, but I think the real reason is simply that on a societal level we value human lives more than animal lives.

CMaz's avatar

That was Dr. Kevorkian

“Respect” is a human behavior. We care for our pets. We “respect” the “rules” that are best to care for our pets.

And, it would not be an issue if we did not see suicide as a sin or a crime.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I never had a problem with Dr.K.

janbb's avatar

Great question. I often think our animals have more compassionate “end of life” care than our family members. My dog was put to sleep in my arms when his life was unsustainable; my mother is suffering a slow and painful decline and would love to die. I wish we could change things; with proper controls, of course.

jazmina88's avatar

We value human life so much, we force people to stay here in deep pain because of our selfish need not to let them go?

Cruiser's avatar

At face value it is hypocritical and just as contentious a subject as abortion.

janbb's avatar

@jazmina88 There are so many ways in which we “value life” that are hypocritical!

Sophief's avatar

Very good question. It should be different. People should be able to end their lives if they are suffering, physically or mentally.

Lothloriengaladriel's avatar

I always found putting pets to sleep cruel and the easy way out, I never thought of them suffereing if kept alive ): I feel a lot better now about putting our collie down after we discovered she had cancer, Thank you, and yes @jazmina88 to many people a pet is like another member of the family.

shadling21's avatar

Amazing question. Why haven’t I heard it before? Wow.

I’ll be back to answer properly. I’m just so impressed that I can’t think.

Bluefreedom's avatar

We just haven’t gotten around to passing a Euthanasia Law for humans yet. It should probably be seriously considered.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Lothloriengaladriel Pets are a member of the family. And my life is my own to do what I want.

KatawaGrey's avatar

We put animals to sleep because an animal cannot tell us what hurts. When we had to put our two kitties to sleep a week apart :( they could not tell us why they were sick. Veterinary medicine is nowhere near as advanced as human medicine.

That having been said, I believe that humans should have the option to request euthanasia if their quality of life is awful and has no chance to improve.

CMaz's avatar

Also, all insurance policies would have to be changed. Not paying off due to it being a suicide.

JeffVader's avatar

This is one of a multitude of things that has it’s origins based in religion. Simply put, according to Christianity an animal has no soul & therefore is inferior to humans. So do what you will with them.

Lve's avatar

This is a very interesting question, that doesn’t have a straightforward answer. My country has euthanasia laws, for which I am happy.
But consider this: what if an elderly person says they want to die, when in fact they are suffering from depression and there could be other ways (i.e. medication) to relieve their pain? How do you determine whether someone is a qualified candidate for euthanasia? And who decides what those criteria are? All these question come into play when talking about a topic like this, and it is not as clear cut as it seems.

JeffVader's avatar

@Lve Well… I would say that depression constitutes a valid reason for wanting to die…

Sophief's avatar

@JeffVader So would I. Depression is a horrible illness which many people don’t understand.

Lve's avatar

@JeffVader This example merely served as way of showing that the process of determining if someone meets the euthanasia criteria are obscure. Don’t you think that everything must be done to help someone overcome a severe (mental) illness? Even if they express the will to die?

Snarp's avatar

So as a thought experiment, setting aside the fact that depression is treatable, and that everyone’s depression is different, let’s just say you have the worst depression known to man. It is not responding to any available treatment. You are 24 years old. You have the right to euthanasia and you take it. Five years later a treatment is discovered that would have completely eliminated your depression. Should you really have been allowed to commit suicide under the law? If we allow non-terminal, treatable or potentially treatable illnesses in people who have a substantial life potentially ahead of them and are not bed-ridden or unable to contribute to society in anyway, then might we just as well allow any and all suicide? Particularly given that in this case wanting to commit suicide is one of the symptoms of the disease?

HTDC's avatar

@jazmina88 Is right. There is just way too much value on human life. It’s a good thing to value the lives of others, but when it stops society from allowing those in unbearable pain or suffering to be at peace, you know we’ve gone to far.

It seems our rights are stripped from us and it’s other people who decide when and how we should die. They are our bodies, they don’t belong to society, so why should I let someone else decide no you must live through this torturous pain, you’re not allowed to exit this world on your own terms? It’s just ridiculous.

CMaz's avatar

Suicide should never be an option until all current possibilities have been taken.

JeffVader's avatar

@Lve Ummm, no, not everything. I certainly feel that therapy & counselling should be on offer. & for moments of crisis medication. However I do feel that there is a cut-off point. Some people are too damaged to heal, some people’s circumstances wont let them heal. Some people don’t want to heal. Why force these people who have tried but failed, often multiple times, to endure years of anguish and misery?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I think suicide should be an option. If I weigh out all the negative affects, and I think suicide is the best option given those affects it’s still my choice.

jlm11f's avatar

Physician assisted suicide is a highly controversial topic, but it is legal in certain states and many nations outside of USA. I believe Oregon is one of them. The rules are pretty strict, I believe you need to apply with a pretty solid reason, and then they make you wait a few months to make sure you don’t change your mind. Statistics show that since this has been made legal in Oregon, there hasn’t been a huge rise in euthanasia compared to other states. Similar results were garnered from the other nations. I agree with euthanasia and I think that similar laws should be incorporated in the whole nation.

To answer your title Q, I think the hypocrisy lies due to religion and politics (as it does with most things). It’s sad that this is the case since religion shouldn’t have any role in determining laws and by allowing any religion to impact a law affecting everyone is in a way proclaiming that everyone must follow their beliefs.

Edited to add: Also, I think the physicians in America look at death in a wrong light. They feel it reflects a failure on their behalf and something that can be beaten. Admittedly, it’s easy to get this “God complex” when everyone constantly looks up to you and relies on you with their most personal and private problems. But it’s also important to not forget that death is natural and trying to prolong life at a point when there’s absolutely no quality left in that life is like fighting a losing battle.

Sophief's avatar

@JeffVader Because that is what the doctors do. Try this medication, try this therapy. It works for some. But like you say, some are too damaged and should be given the opportunity to end their life.

Lve's avatar

@JeffVader You are completely right. My point wasn’t to argue against euthanasia, I just wanted to point out the difficulties that are encountered with it in ‘the real world’.

JeffVader's avatar

@Snarp I have to say yes, before the miracle treatment was discovered, he should be allowed to die. Obviously once the treatment is available then this would become one of the standard treatments, as therapy is now, & no depressed people would want to commit suicide. However, back on planet Earth where no such treatment exists or ever will exist, I would say that depression is such a debilitating affliction that degrades your quality of life so much that people should be allowed to die if they so wish.

CMaz's avatar

@PnL – I get what you are saying.

I have a problem with “legal in certain states” Federal law always trump state law.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t think it is about valuing human life. From what I understand vetenarians take an oath to reduce suffering (someone correct me if I am wrong) and doctors take an oath to do no harm, and I guess harm included ending someones life. If someone is reduced to minimal brain function, a vegetable basically, or knows they are on their way to that state because of a disease, or is in intense pain and suffering, and their disease process will only get worse until they die, the only legal thing in the majority of states is to watch them die or withold water and nutrition so they starve to death. We can passively kill them, but not actively. That is disgusting to me.

To say we value that life, that life has become almost the same as a wimpering dog in pain, with lower brain function in misery. I am not comparing a person to a dog, I am also not saying that just because someone has some brain damage they deserve to die, all I am saying is that if that person, in these extreme circumstances wants to die, we should be able to help them.

JeffVader's avatar

@Snarp Just a little thing, depression is treatable….... only for some.

HTDC's avatar

@JeffVader I so agree with you. Death is inevitable, so why is it so bad for someone to decide on their own terms when they die? Some people can take all the medication and do all the therapy in the world, it’s not always going to work out.

Your_Majesty's avatar

Because human think that they own their pet’s life. I never want my pets to ended up like that no matter how suffer they are. Each creature responsible for their own life,just because we buy/own them it doesn’t mean we own their life. Take other animal in nature as example,life is about survival. Each of them will work as hard as they could just to survive and see another day. do you think that they will kill themselves without human intervention?,I don’t think so. The way human psychologically think(pity,empathy,etc) in reality won’t work in the nature of animal.

josie's avatar

First suffering is considered virtuous since Jesus suffered on the cross. The logic is, if Jesus can suffer for our sins, then what better tribue can we give than to suffer ourselves. That is why suffering is considered good. You do not know me, so in order to avoid controversy, I will not bother to tell you what I think of that idea, but it is there never the less.
Second, anybody can do themselves in any time they want. So we are not really expected to suffer. The problem arises when we want somebody to do the deed for us.
Sadly, there are still people out there who do not believe that your life is yours to do with as you please. They believe that your life belongs to somebody or something else-usually God, occasionally The State. If they think that God owns your life, they will attempt to stand in your way on “moral” grounds, even though moral choice is properly directed toward self interest. If they think that you are the property of The State, the argument will be made on mostly legal grounds, on the basis that all killing is murder. Of course, it is not, but the notion that it is comes from the “God owns you” crowd, and so we are back to where we started anyway. So until people recognize that your life is yours, and not somebody else’s we will have to figure out a way to relieve our own suffering.

JLeslie's avatar

@josie I hate that whole idea of suffering and Christianity. I think it is twisting everything around. Jesus suffered because back then that was the punishment they doled out. We can be more civilized.

CMaz's avatar

“We can be more civilized.” I am with you on that. But…

We are never “more civilized.” Look what it takes to pull the plug on someone that is brain dead. Before you go into surgery you have to fill out a DNR.

Or your family could spend years and their life savings caring for a family member that is in a vegetative state. Now who is suffering?

Snarp's avatar

All life is suffering. I think religion plays a role for some people, but I don’t think it’s the only thing at work here. Animals are worth less because of economics, not souls. Souls are a useful invention to justify the economic value of people. Perhaps they’ve lost that value at some point, but since we’ve already built up an entire culture based on it, we can’t just throw it away.

Cruiser's avatar

I know this is probably veering off the road a bit here…but I did some research into deaths and was a bit surprised to find that almost 10% of the annual deaths in the US are by suicide! That is a lot and can only imagine if it were legal it would be a lot higher. I know for a fact the insurance world goes out of it’s way to not pay benefits to death by suicide and also know many people get creative to find ways to die “naturally” just for that reason! What that means I have no idea just thinking out loud here. Back to work

josie's avatar

@JLeslie Say what you want, that is the origin of suffering as virtue in the western world. Not my fault nor yours, but that is the way it is. By the way, the Romans tortured non-Roman people to death as capital punishment, not because they were technically unsophisticated, but because it terrorized the people under their imperial rule and helped them keep order in areas where their military garrison was small and their control a bit tenuous.

JLeslie's avatar

@Snarp I think that is what is the message in suffering and Christianity, to comfort us that even though we may be hurting eventually there is a pay off, or we will come through it, or we will learn a great lesson that in the end will improve our lives. The “lesson” is to help us ride the tides of difficulties in life and maintain a positive outlook, help us cope. But someone suffering horribly at the end of their life, what is the pay off? Are we supposed to believe that God will love their soul more with that suffering, than if it was ended a little early?

JLeslie's avatar

@josie Yes, I was not saying it was done because they were technically unsophisticated, I believe they purposely tortured people, I agree. The point is it is seen as something Jesus did for us (well not me, but you know what I mean) and really that was what the punishment was. If he had committed a crime in the year 2010 that was punishable by death, depending on where he committed it, he would not be killed by slow torture most likely. If shooting squad was the way to go back then, Christians would be wearing bullets around their neck.

josie's avatar

@JLeslie Perhaps, but that is not what happened. The story is that he suffered on a cross. Thus, suffering becomes an act of virtue, something that serves as a gateway to something better-it is the same reason that people say “no pain, no gain”. The question, paraphrased, was why are people expected to suffer? And that is why. Question answered.

JLeslie's avatar

@josie Cool, so next time you are sick (God forbid) be sure to refuse the narcotics. God will love you more, you will be following His path.

jlm11f's avatar

@josie Like I previously stated, Christianity shouldn’t have anything to do with this discussion since we don’t all have the same religious beliefs. Using any religion as a base to lay down a law should be considered a violation of the first amendment.

HTDC's avatar

I like that this question has 17 “Great Questions”. It shows a significant portion of the community are in favour of euthanasia. Now if those stuck up politicians would listen to the public for once and actually do something about it, we wouldn’t be talking about this. After all they are there to serve the people and the nation, and with an overwhelming majority in support of euthanasia, why is this still an issue?

JLeslie's avatar

@HTDC is it ever put to a vote? I don’t know much about euthanasia and law. Can citizens vote on it? Or, is it up to our representatives and courts to make it permissible?

josie's avatar

@JLeslie I did not say I believe it. Just said where the tradition of suffering as a virtue comes from. Read the question
@PnL That is the whole point. Rationale people should be allowed to commit suicide if their circumstances are intolerable, and rationale people should be allowed to assist if they choose to. The First Ammendment only says that the government will not establish a federal church. Some of the states had established state churches at the time of the framing and they were concerned that a federal church would subordinate them.

JLeslie's avatar

@josie OK. :) I was just pointing out the problem I have with that way of thinking. Sorry for aiming my response directly at you personally, I stand corrected.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

The world population is not Christian but still hold out on ending human suffering or threats. I’d like to see euthanasia as an option for the terminally ill and for non rehabilitative criminals.

HTDC's avatar

@JLeslie Not knowing a whole lot about America’s governmental system, I can’t say for sure. But in Australia the members of parliament vote on it, if there are enough votes, the bill on euthanasia is passed and new laws can be introduced. Last time this happened the bill was defeated, which sucks heavily, I don’t know how so many politicians could be so opposed to it.

CMaz's avatar

Why is it (for the most part) not an issue to put a cow “to sleep” but our pets are a bigger issue?

So this is about empathy?

josie's avatar

@JLeslie FYI, I am a Buckeye who has always been a closet Spartan fan. :)

JLeslie's avatar

@josie You can stay.

jazmina88's avatar

Wow, you guys, I hit a nerve….By the way….my dog is 16 and I love every day she is here. She is amazing. Thanks for responding to this. My aunt and uncle suffered miserably during their last days. and GO RACERS!! Murray State rocks.

cak's avatar

I guess being in the shoes I am in, I wish politics and religion were so far removed from this issue. It’s hard to go through something that is taking my life away knowing that when it gets to a certain point I can’t just say -okay, today is the day. I do have the DNR filled out, I do have all the paperwork in order. There was a time when it wasn’t – and my family really struggled with decisions. Kind of glad they didn’t through in the towel! However, my situation isn’t getting better – it’s declining. I do realize that my views on death and what my doctor’s views are different. They can tell me what is happening, but they also seem to not want to “clear the way” for me. So, I am here, experiencing more and more of the symptoms that I wish I didn’t have to experience. I’m not there yet, though – mentally, I am aware of that, but I know I will be, one day.

We just don’t live in a society that is prepared to separate the religion and politics and really look at the human side of this issue.

wundayatta's avatar

For some, death comes suddenly—accident, violence, failure of the body. For some it comes quietly—not exactly expected, but also with the knowledge that it will happen soon. Still others—death can be seen coming like a freight train, and you can’t jump out of it’s way.

It is the lack of control one has, I believe, that is the most frustrating and scary. I know that I feel, often, because of depression, that something terrible is going to happen. Usually it is that my wife will kick me out because I’m worthless. Rather than wait for it to happen; rather than endure the pain of not knowing exactly when that ax will fall, I am strongly tempted to make it happen first. I just can’t stand the wait.

For those who see it coming—and there are too many here on fluther for my taste (I love the people; but I hate what is happening to them)— I can not really imagine what it is like. I know it scares the shit out of me. Sometimes it gives me bad dreams. I would like to think I could deal with it as well as those we know, but I doubt it.

So you decline, and the pain gets worse and worse, and you can do less and less, and at some point, I guess, your mind may no longer be there, I guess. Is it time to stop waiting for the locomotive and run to embrace it? Just to get it over with? Just to stop the pain? I can sure imagine wanting to stop the pain.

My daughter’s guinea pig, a month or so ago, was sick. Not eating. A day or two went by and finally she and my wife took the guinea pig to the vet. The animal had a twisted stomach. They could bring it home and it would die soon, in agony. Or they could let the vet put him down. My daughter, age 13, made the choice to put him down. I think everyone would consider that the right choice. Why let an animal suffer, when death is inevitable?

So why let a person suffer when death is inevitable? I don’t know. Maybe because the person can still communicate? Maybe because we believe in self-determination? Except for taking your own life? Maybe because we believe there is always hope. Maybe a miracle will happen? Or maybe it’s because we can’t face the idea of death for people we love. Maybe we’re in denial, and we want to hold on. Maybe we have the magical thinking, where the person who is dying understands and accepts and knows when it is time.

I know when I think about Chris or Gary… I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to feel. I’ve had close friends die, and for one, it was sudden, and it ripped me apart. For another it took almost a year, and we all had a chance to say good bye, and then it was just the waiting. She was going to go into hospice care, but she never made it. Everyone thought it was best she died before anyone expected her to.

We often say, after someone dies, that they were “ready” to go. They just decided to turn themselves off in some magical way. I guess it is quite possible to be ready to go, and need help turning yourself off. I guess I think it is mostly selfish of those of us who are left behind to not let people go when they are ready to. And what good does it do us? So we can say we tried everything we could?

No. I think our reluctance to support this kind of suicide is because we can’t face our own losses. And in that selfishness, we make our loved ones suffer. I damn myself this way, because it is so hard for me to think about death—even though I have wanted it, myself, sometimes.

whyigottajoin's avatar

Hello, great question!
My dalmation got sick, and the owners (we gave him away about 10 years ago) wouldn’t put her to sleep for a long time.
She couldn’t walk, she was skinny, she couldn’t get up, she didn’t wiggle her tail no more, she was blind, deaf, they put her on pills so she could hold up her pee, but she had no control over where she poops when she poops anymore so there was dog-crap all over the place, etc, etc, etc. STILL they didn’t put her down because they claimed she wasn’t in pain and the vet didn’t find any concrete illness.
Which was total bullcrap bc people stared at me when I went for a walk with her! They must have thought, “What the hell did you do to your dog?!” I was so angry.
I loved my dog too but I wanted to put her to sleep because she wasn’t not the dog I knew anymore and I could see she had no more joy in her life so I just wanted her to have her peace.
They finally put her too sleep when she lost total control of her bladder, it had to come to the point where she was pooping and peeing all over the place before they stopped being selfish!
She was 14 years old. 14, a dalmation! It’s not like she still had her whole life to live, she lived a good and happy life, but died in a a terrible, terrible, dissrespectfull way.
I will never speak to those people again. They were the wife and brother of my stepfather.
With people it’s the same sometimes, it’s hard to face your losses and to accept that someone or a pet is gone. So they try to hold on too them for as long as possible. Even when the person/animal is suffering.
I think that when death is inevitable, and living-circumstances have come to the point that someone is a vegetable, or to the point where someone is suffering with no end, I think it’s totally fine to give that person their peace. Unless they don’t want too, or don’t know left from right anymore.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@ChazMaz In the case of medicine, state law trumps federal law. That’s why Gonzalez v. Oregon was decided in favor of Oregon’s law permitting assisted suicide. The government tried to use the federal Controlled Substances Act as a way to get around a state’s authority to regulate medical practice, but the Supreme Court found that to be invalid.

JLeslie's avatar

I wonder how long you have to live in Oregon to qualify to be put to sleep?

mattbrowne's avatar

Because ethical dilemmas don’t have easy solutions.

downtide's avatar

I think one of the reasons is that if an animal is put to sleep, its family don’t threaten to sue the vet.

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