Ethical dilemmas: who can decide when euthanasia is justified?

01 February 2013
12 mins read
Volume 4 · Issue 1


The aim of this article is to examine the ethical dilemma of euthanasia, considering the views of the veterinary nurse, the owner and the animal. The article will include criminal and civil consequences and will explain basic ethical theories with the aim of answering the question of who can decide when euthanasia should be carried out.

The term ethics encompasses a wide variety of different topics, many of which cause conflict and debate among professionals. This article uses a case-based approach to consider the topic of euthanasia, discussing who may have the authority to decide when to perform the procedure. The author considers this dilemma from the aspect of registered veterinary nurses (RVNs), the owner and the animal.

Ethics is the practical application of beliefs and values in everyday life (Busch, 2008) and each person holds their own individual beliefs. The study of ethics considers moral questions and the reasoning behind opinions on these (Mullan, 2006). Ethical decisions contemplate notions such as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, and ‘good’ and ‘bad’, when people are presented with various ethical dilemmas throughout their lives (Mullan, 2006). Ethical dilemmas that may be encountered in veterinary practice include treatment differences between insured and non-insured patients, providing palliative care to suffering patients and many situations involving the subject of euthanasia.

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