Ok so admit it. I am not a killer. Not even a felon. Ok no misdemeanors even. Voting rights and driver’s license intact. So why am I writing about murder, especially when I am the perp? Well ok maybe that’s a little dramatic, but that’s what it feels like. Until I think about it. I am a trained healer and when we get our MD’s we take as our utmost priority the solemn oath to “above all, do no harm.” That is because if we can’t help, we must at least not hurt anyone.
I may have mentioned that I have three teenagers. (Fortunately, this tale is not about them, but my mind does go wild at times.) However, I also have four cats. I am so used to the various remains that now I just pick them up and toss them. I used to chase a live critter to the ends of the earth in my house to rescue it. Now I leave the mice if I can’t catch them during the kitty chase scene, but I do still help out if I can and we are all off to the rescue if it’s a bunny or bird if possible.
The other morning, as I groaned down the stairs for my coffee, with eyes half open and my brain not awake, I saw it. First, a few feathers – no big deal. Got them and kept moving toward coffee maker. Then, to my horror, out hopped a limping, definitely not flying, young bird, very injured but still making its best effort. Of course, the two male kitties leaped into action and the birdie kept finding refuge but I had to forget about the coffee. For now.
This was not going to happen on my watch. Normally when I rescue hurt animals I carry them soothingly outside and place them under my shed beyond the kitties’ reach and try to put them out of my mind. I’m sure some of them make it, some don’t, but I’ve done my part. Somehow this time was different. This little guy had no chance and it was open season on my first floor.
So I hunted it down, got it, soothed it with petting and my singsong mom voice, then made the tough call. I had to do it. It was the only ethical thing to do and it was the first time I’ve ever intentionally killed a mammal (flies don’t count). I was sick. It was horrible. But I knew I did the right thing.
As a physician, doing no harm sometimes means relieving someone’s suffering and that is a position I take strongly and seriously. Also I believe in following a person’s wishes if they are in their right mind when they state them. If they don’t want to suffer I support that. Quality is often more important to a person than quantity, and I will override a family’s wishes in favor of an individual’s stated rights if they come to odds. Controversial and difficult I know, but a person has a right to have the last days be as chosen, especially if they have been written down and legalized. Do you have a living will? If not, please get one. Your planning ahead will save your family a lot of stress at what may be a very difficult time later.
So I did it. Doing no harm sometimes means avoiding suffering and this bird had no chance of avoiding being tortured before the inevitable outcome with the same result. Still sick though.