On Advances in Euthanasic Technologies



Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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58 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    We did that for our Shepherd, not so much for all the bells & whistles, but because we didn’t want our dog to pass away at the vet, but instead in her home, on her bed. Perhaps it was a silly luxury, but it was as much for us as it was for her, and that is important. As pet owners, we have total responsibility for our pets lives, including, quite often, choosing when they die. If that pet is a family member, and not just a step above livestock, then that final responsibility is much more of a burden than a duty, and I think we can be forgiven if we want to make that burden a bit lighter for everyone involved.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      The last two dogs I lost — one I had to put to sleep at the vet’s (I was there, poor thing. He always hated shots, but I hope he’d forgotten it by the time has passed. Still makes me sad. Glad my wife wasn’t there for that). The other passed away the next morning — she’d been at the vet’s because she’d gotten REALLY sick, and she died about 45 minutes after the vet had called to say her fever had broken.

      Never did find out what was wrong (she was old, it didn’t really matter). But at least I knew she’d felt better. Good enough to drink a little water and wag her tail, by all accounts.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        The Shepherd was losing a battle with cancer, and she’d had a round of chemo and surgery. She was a good dog and loved everyone at the vet, but we felt she’d had more than her fair share of time in a vet’s office.Report

  2. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    @Jaybird, I don’t want to pick on you, the thing I’m going to point at is quite normal and everyday. We often say that someone who is experiencing grief is a “wreck”. I’m starting to think that language is a problem.

    Grief, loss and sadness are entirely appropriate things to feel when someone you love has died. Those feelings are like a door, a portal that one must go through. “Wreck” kind of implies a traffic accident, something that is incidental, that could have been avoided. Death cannot be avoided, though.

    I think the word “wreck” also is meant to imply a lack of functioning. I understand the sense of distraction and the inability to focus that one might have at these times, but I think non-functioning is at best a hyperbolic description for most of us. But yeah, it can impair things.

    I know some people who have refused to engage with grief – who have shied at that portal – and have become stuck, unable to let go. Perhaps it’s the unpleasantness that puts them off, or the sense of lack of control. I see no sign that this has happened to you or your family, though.

    One thing that is remarkable about things here in the US is how much death is hidden from sight – removed from us. I have lived a long time now, and have many loved ones die. I have never seen a dead body, though. It isn’t “done”, I guess. It’s at a remove. I don’t know that this helps us. I doubt this is the case in Mozambique, which might well have a much better social system in place for processing grief; one that involves neighbors and friends. One of the things that’s happened to us in the US is that we are replacing social ties with economic/financial ones, and emotional obligations with bills.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Good point… but if someone asked me tomorrow what my emotional state was at the time of the process, I would still say “emotional wreck”. I couldn’t complete a sentence without my voice breaking, I had difficultly focusing on much of anything…

      I suppose I should say that I was processing an exceptionally intense set of emotions and, I suppose, I was processing them somewhat healthily… but that’s not the set of terms that comes first to mind.Report

    • In addition to the viewings and funerals I’ve been to, I’ve seen two people actually die. In one case it was in a hospice and another in an ICU. In both cases it was a foregone conclusion, at least by the time it happened. One case was dramatic, where the person was breathing, took in a breath (I don’t remember seeing him exhale), and stopped living. The other, the only way we knew he passed was that the machines he was hooked up to told us so.

      I’m not sure whether or how this actually addresses your point, Doctor Jay. It certainly doesn’t refute it at all. Just that the last paragraph in your comment hit home for me and brought those memories up.Report

      • Avatar El Muneco says:

        Much the same experience here. I’m not sure when my father actually died. He was propped up in his hospital bed, not conversing with my mother and me. Just breathing. And then, at some point, he wasn’t. No outward sign, no nothing. It wasn’t until a doctor came in and couldn’t get a response that anyone realized it.Report

  3. Avatar Damon says:

    Yep, although the paw print thing and home service are new to me, we had the cremation and box of ashes deal done for two cats. We were going to put them in the yard until the divorce / sale of the house came about. I’m sure she still has the containers. She’d never give them up. They are likely still in her office, on the shelf, “close by”.

    Now, I think I’ll go home and hug my cat.Report

  4. I’m sorry to hear about your loss, Jaybird.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Thank you very much, but this wasn’t really intended to be a “I’m grieving/I have grieved” post as much as a “there are roving bands of vets who go house to house and provide hugs to the mommies and daddies of the doggies and kitties they just euthanized for $300… what the hell?” post.

      Edit: (Though if you want to feel maudlin, you can visit that post here. There’s a picture and everything.)Report

  5. Avatar North says:

    I’m sorry for Cecelia, I do regret not having an opportunity to meet your cats when I was out in CO (I love cats).

    The economic musings have a certain element of Ouroboros to it. We ‘waste’ such portions of our acquired wealth on things that would flabbergast an outside observer considering the opportunity cost yet the human condition is such that it is the potential of having the wealth (And more importantly being able to ‘waste’ it) that drives so many of the gains that have led to that same wealth.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Next time. Hey, this time you can meet Alice! She looks just like Tiger, only a miniature version of him.

      It’s kind of weird, actually.

      Sadly, they don’t like each other so we can’t do a “never talk to me or my son ever again” photo with them but we totally could.

      Anyway, you can meet her.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        That’s a relief, 2nd on my Jaybird related bucket list to hanging out and playing board games is meeting and befriending your cats. Knowing my luck they’ll hate me, my friends say it’s something about wanting it too much that cats dislike.Report

        • Avatar Maribou says:

          @north Our cats hate everyone, almost. So maybe your luck will reverse!

          Also, Alice is curious about all comers and Momo adores strange men. He belonged to a gay couple in his youth and I think he still keeps hoping every dude who comes through our door is his long lost original owner, until he’s thoroughly convinced himself otherwise. So the odds for the two of them are good :D.Report

  6. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    This was a beautiful and honest intellectual exercise. Thank you for that JB.

    I have really been thinking a lot lately about how we feel it is such a humane thing to euthanize a pet, to relieve them of their suffering, but how we don’t offer the same to people. I just can’t seem to justify the contradiction and rather than becoming a euthanasia-for-people supporter, I can’t help but wonder if the ethical thing to do is to let our pets pass naturally. But then someday my friend Murphy will be suffering and I won’t want him to suffer anymore, and like that line from Marley and Me, I’ll ask him to tell me when he is ready to go. Damn, I love that dog so much it hurts sometimes.

    I’ll also add that I once had to have my dad’s German Shepard put to sleep and our vet, who had been practicing for close to 40 years, cried after he did it. I kept thinking, “Does he do this every time?” and I later found out the answer was yes. I am still utterly amazed by that.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Sometimes I wonder if the revulsion we felt toward Kevorkian was not toward what he was doing but because he seemed to be angry/trying to prove a point by doing it.

      A million years ago, when we discussed Scott Adams and his father, we had a fairly interesting (or so it is to me… but I probably don’t have perspective) set of comments starting here.

      If you don’t want to click on it, what reminded me of it was Dr. M. Scott Peck’s anecdote at the beginning of Denial of the Soul — Spiritual and Medical Perspectives on Euthanasia and Mortality in which he describes euthanizing a patient (or effectively euthanizing one, anyway).

      He opened a book by talking about how he killed a patient.

      Which is amazing to me.

      But, unlike Dr. K., Peck spent a lot of time discussing stuff like grief and morals and ethics and other topics with sufficient gravity to make what he did the fodder for the opening of a book rather than Exhibit A.

      I kept thinking, “Does he do this every time?” and I later found out the answer was yes. I am still utterly amazed by that.

      I can’t even imagine. I’d have to quit immediately after the first time I performed the procedure.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I should also point out this post (written by RTod) in which we discussed human euthanasia.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        There is, of course, the obvious contradiction for me that I kill animals intentionally, several times per year. And then when you try to explain to someone that you love these animals, find them beautiful, etc it gets even weirder.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Yes, but you eat them, though.

          I assume you eat them.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            I do. I tend to look at it like the way various religions have made sacrifices to their god(s). They didn’t pick lowly creatures. They picked something they liked. So, in that sense I try to think of hunting, preparing and eating as a celebration of the life of the animal.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Which is a lot nicer when you don’t let the poor animal bleed to death over a lengthy period of time… (Not that I’m saying you in particular do that. Indians used to run deer to death from heart attacks.)Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                Well, when it’s bigger than you and you don’t have bullets, you do what ya gotta.

                As Warren Ellis points out, humans are pursuit predators.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Yeah. But I do gotta say, the Indians at least had arrows.
                They were taking full-grown healthy deer, unhurt, and running them to death. It took hours. That’s gotta be torture.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                That’s gotta be torture.

                So is starving to death.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              This makes sense. There are a lot of rituals out there involving hunting and it seems to me that the hunters who have these rituals (this is a nice little essay, for example) are in a different category than the ones who, for example, high five each other after a kill.

              A state of gratitude and awareness of the gravity of what’s going on.

              And buying a half pound of ground beef meat paste is almost completely alienated from that. Divorced.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Cowburgers upset people. Can’t imagine why.
                Apparently use of the English language (as opposed to the French) is verbatim.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I’d say with my crowd there’s a little bit of both. We will definitely say ‘nice shot’ or shake someone’s hand after a kill, but there’s a way to do it that doesn’t seem like football players celebrating giving someone a wedgie.Report

            • Avatar Damon says:

              This is essentially what I told my niece when she asked about hunting and killing “Bambi”.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Letting pets pass naturally assumes they’re suffering from natural ailments.
      I used to ride horses a lot — a horse with a broken leg (generally compound) isn’t something people generally fix. And allowing it to “pass naturally” would be inhumane.

      Murder, Euthanasia, whatever — death is quick. I can’t abide suffering for no reason.Report

  7. I expect they’re making really sick jokes about you and your pet pretty much immediately once they’re out of earshot. How else would they get through their day?Report

    • Avatar Maribou says:


      I doubt that’s true. It’s certainly not universally true. I used to volunteer at a humane society for 25 hours a week, and while I was too young / unpaid to assist with the euthanasias they had to do (every damn week, for hours, more often at times of year where supply far outstripped demand), I helped prep and clean the room. And I worked side by side with the workers who did kill the animals, before and after. They felt every death. They didn’t make jokes. Often, they cried.

      Now, the corpses in the freezer? Yes, when the manager was out of earshot, we sometimes made jokes about those. How else could we deal with a freezer full of corpses? But everyone who worked there – even the guys who were jerks a lot of the rest of the time – treated the death itself as sacred.

      So I doubt jokes were made about our pet, or about our grief. Now, about the state of our house, or Jaybird’s beard, or random other quirky things like that that come up from home to home? I bet they laugh themselves silly over those. Gotta find a release somewhere.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      By tuning it out and learning how to cry fake tears.

      Because, kids, sometimes you’re really not in the mood.Report

  8. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    Well, $300 is about what you’d pay for two sessions with a therapist.

    Would you say that your experience provided more comfort than two sessions talking it over with a therapist?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        …but I don’t know that I’d have scheduled a couple of sessions with a therapist.Report

        • Avatar Maribou says:

          @jaybird Dude, I love you, and I love that you worry about this stuff. But have you thought about your games budget lately? You spend easily 10X this cost on entertainment every year, and you don’t blink twice.

          (I’m not castigating you for that, because I don’t think it’s a problem. I just think the “you spent how much???” is an ancestral ghost, and that said ancestor would be just as baffled, nay, more baffled, by our collection of media.)Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            That’s different.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            Hell, our ancestral ghosts would find out that we can enjoy a nearly infinite variety of music, on demand, played by world class musicians as many times as we care to have it repeated and then they’d steal our Ipods and lock themselves in the crypt until the batteries ran out.

            I’ve heard it very plausibly argued that the singularity already has happened and it happened when we learned to store and transmit sound.Report

  9. Avatar Aaron Warfield says:

    My father in law passed away on Monday. Right now my wife, an only child, is in Phoenix dealing with everything that comes after, which she and her dad did last year when her mother died.

    Two weeks ago we had to put my cat, Zwak, to sleep. She had cancer and at 15, know longer ate or could go to the bathroom.

    I am stuck at the house, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is to take care of our animales, Barnaby and Monkey. Also to get the house ready for the two cats that my wife will be bringing home, her fathers cats, Smokey and Millie. That she has to be in a strange city (her parents were in the process of moving when her mother died) taking care of a horrible business alone is disorientating and humbling. She has to ask all sorts of strangers for help, from funeral parlor directors to estate lawyers to neighborhood watchmen (Sun City, so at least this is familiar ground for them.) Everyone is doing there utmost for her, as they all have either been in this situation or knows they will be. While she didn’t have to actually view the body, the people all know exactly what she is going through, how tough it is and how confusing the post death needs can be. Everyone.

    I really wish I could be there.Report

  10. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Once upon a time I was cat sitting. Poorly, it turned out. The poor thing died. Or, rather, was dying and I had to take it to the vet to learn/determine it’s fate. The vet — or someone from the vet — explained to me that there were two options: a private cremation wherein the kitty would be cremated solo and all of its ashes returned to the family; a group cremation* wherein multiple animals would be cremated together and some of those ashes would be returned to the family, containing a mix of kitty’s and those of other animals. I don’t remember the numbers but there was a significant price differential, so much so that the family opted for the group one.

    Given how the pet industry has grown and the developments shared here, I wonder if they even offer that option anymore.

    I also wonder if they ever really performed the private cremations or if they just told people they did. Because even in matters of death, people can be awful.

    * I don’t think these were the actual terms.Report

    • Avatar Michelle Togut says:

      Yes, they still offer to cremate remains together and to dispose of the ashes if you don’t want them.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “I also wonder if they ever really performed the private cremations or if they just told people they did.”

      Yeah, based on my experience with cremation, there’s not much difference between cremation remains and what you might find in the bottom of a charcoal grill. (If anything, the charcoal grill stuff looks more impressive.)Report

  11. Avatar Michelle Togut says:

    Sorry for your loss, Jaybird. This post hits home with me. In the past couple of years, we’ve had to put down five cats–one foster and four of my own–all of whom were suffering from Feline Infectious Peronitis (FIP), an almost always fatal disease that most often strikes young cats.

    While I’ve looked into home services, I ended up taking the cats to the vet’s office. One of the vets I use treats cats exclusively. They have a special room set up for euthanasia, complete with comfortable chairs to give it a more homelike feel. They give you all the time you need to say good-bye to your friend. You can hold the cat and stroke it while they do the procedure. You come back later for the ashes and the paw print; plus, they send a condolence card. It makes the process somewhat easier.

    The other vet we use is the vet for the rescue group I volunteer with. They provide services for our fosters at a great discount. The setting is the typical cold sterile room, but I will be forever grateful to the primary vet who, when we had to let our beloved Sergei go, came in after hours and spend over an hour with us, explaining the disease and just chatting with us. She went out of her way to make us feel like we were doing the right thing for our furbaby. Sergei’s brother Nikolai succumbed to the same disease a couple months later. Both cats were pure white, and Sergei was one of the smartest cats we’ve ever had. We still miss them.

    I’ve never been present for a person’s death and have no idea if being present for pets’ passing will have prepared me. But it’s something I think about more frequently these days. Both the Russian’s parents and my own are still living. His parents, whom we moved from Chicago to Greensboro, are particularly fragile.

    Sorry to get all maudlin.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      A special euthanasia room is a good way to do it, too. Set up like a hospice rather than a hospital. Definitely an improvement from what I remember from the 80’s. I googled FIP and it sounds dreadful. That really, really sucks.

      It’s strange that the professionals I’ve met who have the best bedside manner I’ve ever seen have all been veterinarians.

      The professional surgeons I’ve interacted with? Cold fish. Distant. Kind of like what I’d have expected professional euthanasia experts to have to be like, honestly. (Of course, the pediatricians and GPs I’ve interacted with have all been awesome.)

      I wonder if my experience there is an outlier.Report