Why Does My Cat Get Better Medical Care Than I Do?

Vets are really interesting people.  In the first place, their education is generally more selective and more rigorous than that of human physicians.  They have to know all the same stuff, but about multiple species. And it’s a lot harder to get into vet school than into med school. Partly because there are fewer vet schools.

The vets I know have all seriously considered the practice of human medicine and specifically rejected it (even though they obviously could have qualified.) Usually this is because they see human patients as deserving a lot of their medical problems, whereas animals don’t.  I’m not sure I agree with this.  Plenty of dogs and some cats end up in the vet’s office as a result of getting into fights that they could and should have avoided, after all.  And obesity is an increasing problem among critters for most of the same reasons it’s a problem among people, except that it should be easier for a critter to stay slim if somebody else is entirely in charge of feeding it.

And vets have a separate code of professional ethics, sort of like the one human doctors have, except:

1) there is, obviously, not much of a confidentiality issue between vet and critter, and

2) the code specifically requires a vet to refrain from causing the patient pain AND fear.  Which would be a pretty good idea for human doctors too, wouldn’t you think?

Anyway, I raise these issues because I just got a postcard indicating that my cat is due for her shots next month.  How come I never get postcards about mammograms and endoscopies for myself?  Not to mention that vet care is almost always a lot cheaper than human medical care, and so are the meds.  This is partly because vet care is (so far) not expected to be covered by third-party payment, and partly because most meds and many procedures are tested on dogs and cats before being approved for people, so the R&D has been long since amortized. 

One of the first child-protection activists, a Brit whose name I can’t remember and am too lazy to look up right now, began his career by bringing an abused child to the local SPCA.  “She’s an animal too,” he said, essentially, “and deserves the same protection as the carter’s horse.”  Maybe we could try a similar approach with medical care?

Jane Grey

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