Musings of a Veterinarian

The Hardest Thing To Say

March 16, 2014 By: Dr. K Category: Opinion

This past week I faced the words I hate saying. A seven month old kitten presented to me for weight loss and loss of appetite. He had no veterinary history and was born to a stray. His elderly owner brought him in poor condition and my suspicions were tweaked immediately. His enlarged lymph nodes and abnormal abdominal palpation further made my heart sink. A positive Feline Leukemia test confirmed my suspicions: This kitten had end-stage cancer caused by his feline leukemia virus.

And here it came, the words I dreaded saying: There is nothing we can do for him.

There is nothing we can do. That vacant, depressing droll makes me feel like a failure as a veterinarian. I pride myself in providing multiple treatment options, climbing the therapeutic ladder to find a treatment that works, and having enough humility to refer to a specialist when needed. I love curing, preventing, and palliating. It’s rare when there isn’t something I can offer to gain a sliver of quality of life for my patients. But how do I deal when I have no options but death?

My cases come home with me. I worry about sick patients. I revel in successes. But the ones that affect me the most, undoubtedly, are the ones I can’t treat. My only peace is I recommended euthanasia to alleviate suffering. A part of me knows I followed all the rules. Another part of me knows this was the right decision. But in the fold of my heart I feel I failed. That love, hope, despair, and feeling of failure describes what it is to be a veterinarian.

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