This is a cat story that makes me ask a lot of questions. The internet newspapers tend to report the news but rarely challenge what happened.
A woman, Colleen, asks her son, Jesse, to take her cat, Lady, for a flea bath at Broadway Animal Hospital in Gardner, Mass, USA. Within a short time Lady was dead. Euthanised. That is the story in a nutshell. How could this happen?
For some inexplicable reason, Jesse signed a form that authorised the hospital to euthanize his mother’s cat. He was given the form by a vet, Dr. Malik. Jesse signed it without reading it. Lady was perfectly healthy.
What happened? Why did the vet give him a form that asked the hospital to kill Lady? Why didn’t the vet ask Jesse why he wanted Lady killed? If he had asked that he might have realised he had the wrong form.
It seems (and I am guessing) that Jesse requested a flea bath for Lady whereupon Dr Malik grabbed what he thought was a consent form because I guess flea baths can be dangerous, which begs the next question.
Why was Colleen asking a vet to put her cat through a flea bath? There are lots of safer ways to deal with fleas (Frontline comes to mind). And in any case there is no point clearing fleas off a cat with a dangerous insecticide if the home has fleas jumping around because they will just jump back on the cat after a while. The whole problem will restart unless fleas are cleared from the home at the same time. Maybe she did that but I doubt it.
OK, the vet has a nice looking perfectly healthy cat in front of him and he handed it over, or someone else did, to a vet tech to kill. It makes me ask whether anyone asked some questions at that point.
The next question is important I think. Jesse signed the form without reading it. That is not uncommon. But he didn’t have to fill anything in on the form it seems to me. Surely the form would have something on it to fill in to explain why the owner wanted the cat euthanized. If the form required some input from Jesse he would have realized it was the wrong form surely?
Is this a pre-written form that says the owner wants her cat put down for unspecified health reasons? It looks like that because if the form had areas that needed to be completed by Jesse he didn’t complete them as far as I can see. If he did complete those parts of the form he must have been totally switched off.
Perhaps the consent form for an operation or procedure is similar to the form that consents to euthanasia? It might even be the same form with a tick box requirement on it.
It is easy to be critical in retrospect. However, I think this is an example where procedures were inadequate to protect the cat from mistakes that could lead to the cat being harmed. I am sure there will be an internal inquest at the hospital with the goal of tightening up procedures – checks etc. to prevent tragic mistakes like this.
An interesting thing of note is that Jesse discovered the tragic mistake when he took a second cat to the same place and Dr Malik asked whether he wanted to cat’s bodies back after euthanasia. Why did the vet make a presumption that Jesse had brought in a second cat for euthanasia?
On aspect of such a tragedy is that the average domestic cat is virtually worthless from a purely financial point of view. All the value is in the emotional connection and no one puts a price on that.