Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Euthanasia: The Natural Alternative

Alternative therapies. They're holistic. Natural. Gentle. Life affirming. Or so the advertising and the practitioners of magic would have us believe. There's a 'natural alternative' for everything. Even death. Take holistic veterinarian Ella Bittel, whose "special passion is hospice care for animals".

In a puff piece she wrote for Holistic Horse she states

Consider the common suggestion of putting a horse down when it no longer eats. While a slowed appetite may have been observable for months or years before the actual dying process starts, in the last days of physical life it is normal for the dying to stop eating entirely. From our perspective, it may seem as though they are starving, but from human hospice we know that the sensation of hunger simply ceases to exist. When the body is not going to use the energy provided by the food anymore, why would it want to bother eating? If there are signs of discomfort in the digestive tract, several healing modalities can be used to prevent or soothe colic symptoms, including homeopathy, acupuncture, herbs, probiotics and essential oils.

Her special healing modality appears to be allowing animals to starve to death and, if the owner appears worried, using magical nostrums.

Fear of making our beloved horse friend suffer in pain is the number one concern haunting us and causing us to euthanize. What is overlooked when we are so preoccupied with this noble concern is that many animals would rather be in pain than no longer be alive.

How on earth does she know this? EoR is afraid to ask, because it probably involves psychics and animal communicators. This is the same bizarre mindset that afflicted Penelope Dingle at the end, where her medically inept homeopath ensured her the pain was 'in her head' and that suffering is good and wonderful and part of the 'healing' process. Dr Bittel seems to be arguing that letting our animals suffer is something wonderful and creative. Dr Bittel is also a proponent of the pointlessly ineffective homeopathic treatment.

When implementing drugs or herbs, we need to take into consideration that their possible side effects can become more prominent when taken on an empty stomach by an animal which no longer eats, and in general as the life force starts running low. That is when other ways of soothing discomfort can become invaluable. Homeopathy, gentle body or energy work, warm towels and warm water bottles can do wonders when used in an effective manner.

While you are feeling so warm and fuzzy and holistic about letting your animal slowly starve to death, you can also engage in some cognitive dissonance:

Hopefully, you can spend some quality time just being with your animal, expressing your love and gratitude for all it has brought to your life.

Apart from finding this offensive in allowing needless suffering, and wondering how a veterinarian can actually get away with recommending this without falling foul of the animal welfare authorities and veterinary registration board, it gets worse when Dr Bittel wanders off into pseudo-religious platititudes.

Caring for the dying is an art, and unless we prepare for it ahead of time, chances are we won't feel up for the task. It will seem daunting to us rather than sacred. Whether the caretaker is aware of it or not, much happens in the last days and hours of a dying human or animal, in terms of getting ready internally for the great passage.

Like most promoters of 'alternative' modalities, she also charges people to attend seminars on her deeply troubling philosophy, with prices from US$375 to US$395. These seminars include such topics as "How scientific research on subtle energy aspects of the dying process ties in with the insights of ancient masters". The brochure also reveals her apparent belief in meridians and chakras.

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