“I don’t want to do this surgery if it’s going to do more harm than benefit the dog,” said the faculty surgeon. At this point, ten people were surrounding my patient in the surgery prep area. This dog was scheduled to be moved into surgery shortly, but the surgeons had raised some concerns. Before I knew what was happening, faculty members from Internal Medicine, Oncology, and Surgery were all at my prep station, rounding on my patient. Multiple hands were on the anesthetized dog, evaluating the tumors that were scheduled to be removed, assessing margins, and palpating lymph nodes.
It was hard to realize what was happening among the flurry of veterinarians but shortly after their discussion, the surgery was called. They spoke with the owner and advised me to wake my patient.
It wasn’t until after I cleaned up my station I found out that they had decided surgery would not be of true benefit to my patient. Despite having multiple tumors that could be surgically removed, the team decided that they shouldn’t because removing such a large amount of tissue would require drains and an extensive recovery time. It would probably not increase the patient’s survival time significantly and would cause her a considerable amount of pain. With the factors of prognosis, median survival time, surgical risk, and recovery the team and owners decided it was not in this dog’s best interest to undergo surgery. The surgery was canceled and alternative treatment methods would be pursued.
There’s a generalization about surgeons that they will cut at any chance they get, regardless of whether it is practical or not. I have found out firsthand that the statement is far from true. I was so extremely impressed by the collaborative effort with the patient’s best interest in mind. I cherish moments when I see veterinarians upholding our oath to do no harm and always put the patient first.