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Most veterinarians hold a ‘pediatric’ rather than ‘garage mechanic’ view of their function. In recent years, sophisticated medical modalities have allowed veterinarians to keep animals alive, and increased value of companion animals in society has increased demand for such treatment. But whereas humans can choose to trade current suffering for extended life, animals seem to lack the cognitive apparatus required to do so. Thus, veterinarians must guard against keeping a suffering animal alive for too long. Clients may be emotionally tied to the animal and blind to its suffering. Part of the veterinarian’s role, therefore, is to lead the client to ‘recollect’ quality of life issues. A second major role for the veterinarian in treating geriatric or chronically ill animals is control of pain and distress. Unfortunately, pain and distress have historically been neglected in both human and veterinary medicine for ideological reasons. It is ethically necessary to transcend this ideology which leads to both bad medicine and bad ethics.


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