Letter: NYS call for mortuary help undervalues veterinarians

'Use the knowledge of veterinarians as support staff' to treat the living, instead

April 17, 2020 (published)
From Carrie Nedele

I am a veterinarian. I have a four-year undergraduate degree, a four-year doctorate in veterinary medicine and a two-year postdoctoral masters degree. I have worked in clinical practice for seven years, handling everything from dentistry to extreme life-threatening emergencies. I can perform anesthesia, analyze blood work, perform X-rays, diagnose patients and perform surgeries. However, I am not recognized by society as a medical professional or even as a health-care worker.

The state of New York recently put out a call for veterinarians and veterinary technicians to help with mortuary operations because of their "familiarity with the deceased and bereaved" ("Veterinarians ready to aid human medicine in pandemic," April 16, 2020). Yes, I deal with death almost every day at my practice and I am used to consoling grieving loved ones. However, do you think someone with 10 years of medically based postgraduate education is best put to use handling dead bodies? I find this to be insulting on a personal level.

I live in Colorado, where veterinarians were sent an email asking us to make a list of all personal protective equipment (PPE) and anesthesia machines. This request was made so that veterinary equipment could be used by the human hospitals for human patients. By that reasoning, the government knows we are licensed medical practitioners who use the same PPE and anesthesia equipment as human hospitals. Our equipment is good enough for human use, but our knowledge is not.

I understand that I am not a licensed human medical practitioner. I do not need to diagnose humans. I instead propose that you use the knowledge of veterinarians as support staff, people who run anesthesia machines and ventilators or draw blood and monitor patients. This is what we do daily. In a world where there aren’t enough human doctors and nurses to handle the current COVID-19 crisis, it is an affront to my profession to say we are good enough only to deal with dead bodies.

Dr. Carrie Nedele owns Grand Animal Hospital in Fraser, Colorado.

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