The modern strengthening of the human-animal bond has supported the development of a comprehensive veterinary practice that provides care for all life stages, including the end-of-life
Doctors of veterinary medicine swear the “Veterinarian’s Oath” and adhere to it as their mantra towards their profession and that of animal care. Paralleling human medicine, through its own continued research and development, the constantly evolving practice of veterinary medicine has areas of specialty for all health disciplines and life stages.
The modern strengthening of the human-animal bond has supported the development of a comprehensive veterinary practice that provides care for all life stages, including the end-of-life. The end-of-life period refers to a time following the tentative or definitive diagnosis of a terminal illness or other severe, life-limiting condition. Veterinary practices for end-of-life care can include medical and surgical management, palliative care, hospice care and humane euthanasia.
When elected by pet owners and approved by their veterinarian, the process of humane euthanasia of pets is geared towards minimizing any potential stress or discomfort for both the pet and pet owner. Since 1963, the American Veterinary Medical Association has reviewed and updated euthanasia methods regularly. In the absence of verbal communication with the patient, guidelines prepared by the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia Animal Welfare Committee help to further direct veterinarians and pet owners in decisions pertaining to humane euthanasia.
When elected by pet owners and approved by their veterinarian, the process
of humane euthanasia of pets is geared towards minimizing any potential
stress or discomfort for both the pet and pet owner
Additional resources available to owners that support the assessment of their pet’s potential suffering include Dr. Alice Villalobos’s Quality of Life Scale, the veterinarian’s assessment and the owner’s interpretation of their pet’s well-being. Compassionate end-of life practices for pets have been developed to reduce or curtail pain and other forms of suffering in pets and are readily available, on a voluntary basis, to those responsible for their care and well-being.
Saying goodbye to your best friend: A veterinarian’s perspective on end-of-life care and humane euthanasia
Veterinarian Dr. Jeff Berkshire (picture left) shared perspectives on end-of-life care and humane euthanasia of pets during a conference called The End of Life: Dying, Suicide, Death at Simon Fraser University’s Vancouver campus on November 3, 2016. He was also a participant in a “praxis panel” (picture below) that included Jewish Rabbi Laura Kaplan, Buddhist nun Venerable Yin Kit and counselor Hilda Fernandez.
Dr. Jeff Berkshire, DVM, MSc, BSc, is originally from Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. He completed his Bachelor of Science degree at Nova Scotia Agricultural College. Following completion of his Master of Science in Animal Science degree at the University of British Columbia, Dr. Berkshire worked at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre for two years before enrolling at the Atlantic Veterinary College where he graduated in 2005.
Dr. Berkshire has practiced small animal medicine and surgery for over 11 years. He is currently the owner of Lifting Stars Pet Homecare, a mobile veterinary service for companion animals offering compassionate end-of-life services in the comfort of home. In addition, Dr. Berkshire works as Locum Veterinarian at Granville Island Veterinary Hospital and maintains a seasonal position as Seminar Provider with Zoetis (a producer of medicine and vaccinations for pets and livestock). Dr. Berkshire is a member of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, the College of Veterinarians of British Columbia, the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement and the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care.
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The End of Life: Dying, Suicide, Death
Dr. Jeff Berkshire, Rabbi Laura Kaplan, Buddhist nun Venerable Yin Kit Sik,
and moderator Hilda Fernandez on the Praxis Panel at The End of Life: Dying, Suicide, Death (November 2016)
Simon Fraser University’s Institute for the Humanities hosted a conference in November 2016 called The End of Life: Dying, Suicide, Death. The conference was intended to provide space for pondering the complex and agonizing decisions regarding the end of life. Space for such conversations is especially needed given the 2015 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada declaring that the prohibition on physician-assisted dying infringes upon Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the introduction of Bill C-14 which has resulted in debate about who, when and in what circumstances an individual may make such a decision.
Speakers included academics, graduate students and practitioners who spoke from their own particular perspectives: legal, ethical, medical, and spiritual or religious. The presentations also drew upon insights from literature and art, some of humanity’s most treasured resources.