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Blue Juice

Euthanasia in Veterinary Medicine

Patricia Morris

Publication Year: 2012

Offering a candid behind-the-scenes look at small-animal veterinary practices, Blue Juice explores the emotional and ethical conflicts involved in providing a "good death" for companion animals. Patricia Morris presents a nuanced ethnographic account of how veterinarians manage patient care and client relations when their responsibility shifts from saving an animal's life to negotiating a decision to end it.

Using her own experiences and observations in veterinary settings as well as the voices of seasoned and novice vets, Morris reveals how veterinarians think about euthanasia and why this "dirty work" often precipitates "burnout," moral quandaries, and even tense or emotional interactions with clients. Closely observing these interactions, Morris illuminates the ways in which euthanasia reflects deep and unresolved tension in human-animal relationships.

Blue Juice seeks to understand how practitioners, charged with the difficult task of balancing the interests of animals and their humans, deal with the responsibility of ending their patients' lives.

Published by: Temple University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

My deepest gratitude goes to the many veterinarians who welcomed me into their world and then generously answered my many questions. I was fortunate to experience overwhelming kindness, enthusiasm, and encouragement from all the participants in this research project, but I am especially indebted to Carter Luke and Sharon Drellich. ...

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Introduction: Euthanasia in Veterinary Medicine

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pp. 1-18

As companion animals, or pets, increasingly become part of American households and, for some, a valued part of the family, the termination of an animal’s life has also become the purview of veterinarians. Time and time again, small-animal veterinarians, like the professor in the opening quotation, explained to me how euthanasia has changed. ...

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1. Negotiating Death: Managing Disagreement with Pet Owners

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pp. 19-48

During the course of my research, I was invited to attend a oneday seminar on euthanasia required of third-year students at my local veterinary college. Though truly grateful for the opportunity to sit in on the day’s events, I must admit that an early morning discussion of the pharmacological effects of euthanasia drugs ...

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2. Creating a Good Death: The Dramaturgy of Veterinary Euthanasia

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pp. 49-79

The care that veterinarians take to create a good euthanasia experience for their animal patients and human clients first became clear to me during a brief but poignant exchange with an intern. Often owners who choose not to be present during euthanasia wish to spend time with the pet’s body before it is cremated. ...

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3. Strange Intimacy: Managing Pet Owners’ Emotions

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pp. 80-105

Today’s companion-animal veterinarians not only attend to the death of their animal patients; they must also deal with emotionally distraught clients before and after they have made the difficult decision to end the life of their companion animal. As seen in Chapter 2, veterinarians work to manage pet owners’ impressions ...

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4. Learning to Euthanize: Death and the Novice Veterinarian

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pp. 106-135

Similar to any novice to an unknown subculture, I entered the daily lives of veterinarians with only anticipations of what I might experience and how I might think, feel, and behave. First and foremost, I had to adjust to sights and smells that initially made me woozy. ...

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5. Coping with Euthanasia: Emotion-Management Strategies

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pp. 136-169

All veterinary encounters are carefully negotiated, triangular interactions involving the veterinarian, the human client, and the animal patient. Because the animal is nonverbal and basically powerless to participate in any consultation, the client and veterinarian must determine the animal’s problem and negotiate an outcome for the patient.1 ...

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Conclusion: Animals as Property and Patients

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pp. 170-186

From my first few days in the world of veterinary medicine until my very last day, the ambiguous social status of companion animals was visually clear to me. On any given day, in one room of an animal hospital sits a healthy two-year-old cat scheduled to be put to sleep because his owners can’t afford the relatively simple procedure ...

Appendix: Methodology

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pp. 187-192


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pp. 193-204


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pp. 205-226


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pp. 227-230

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9781439907078
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439907061

Page Count: 244
Publication Year: 2012