How Would You Feel if Your Vet Performed an Autopsy on Your Deceased Pet Without Your Permission?

 |  Apr 9th 2009  |   0 Contributions


A debate is occurring on the NAVC Clinician's Brief's "For the Love of DOG Blog." I am troubled on two levels.

First, and least important, the name of the blog may be a trademark violation. Dogster's For the Love of Dog Blog has been around longer. I will leave it to the good folks at Dogster/Catster HQ to sort that out.

The real issue for me is the subject of the current post on the NAVC blog. The post, by Dr. Jennifer Schori, is titled "Whose Body is it Anyway?". The blog is intended for veterinarians. Here is an excerpt:

I do know that there have been times when other vets have performed a quick [autopsy] on a pet that has died in order to try to find out what caused the pets deterioration or death. These were not cases in which permission was granted, but neither were they cases where permission was denied. The owners just werent asked. I can see how this happens since obtaining permission for [an autopsy] is a delicate matter to bring up when an owner has made the emotional decision to euthanize their pet.

Personally, I can not see how this happens. Yes, bringing up the subject of an autopsy is a delicate matter. Most clients don't want to discuss such things during a time of intense suffering. But I can answer the question posed in the title of Dr. Schori's post with ease. The body of a deceased pet belongs to the owner of the pet.

The owner, and the owner alone, has the right to decide what happens to their pet's remains. If an autopsy has not been authorized, then it must not be performed.

When I lose a patient, my clients expect me to treat the body with respect. I always do. Deceased pets were beloved family members, and at my practice their bodies are handled with gentle dignity. Always.

Autopsies can provide useful information on the cause of death in mysterious cases. But they are invasive. The body is opened and organs are examined or removed.

Autopsies are required by law in some instances (for example, if rabies may have contributed to the animal's death). But, even if required by law, I would never, ever think of performing an autopsy without first discussing the matter with the owners of the pet.

I was therefore surprised that this could be a subject for debate. As far as I'm concerned, it's an open-and-shut case. But not all vets see it the same way. Some of them are performing autopsies on the sly.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on this matter. And, if you want to, feel free to jump over to Dr. Schori's blog and give the vets who read it a piece of your mind.

Photo: Snowmanradio. Photo license: CC.

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