Dissents over review process for euthansia report; board revisits issue

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The Report of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia has been called the gold standard, the resource consulted not only by the veterinary profession but also by the research, humane, and animal control communities. In recent months, when euthanasia solution has been in short supply nationwide, the report has been referred to as a source for alternatives. Maintaining confidence in the document ensures that euthanasia is being performed in the most humane manner, with science as the guide.

That is why the House of Delegates on July 21 decided to voice its displeasure over what it views as an insufficient period provided for interested organizations to review and comment on the updated report developed by the current panel. As a result, the board on July 22 reopened discussion of its approval of the panel report.

In November 1999, a Panel on Euthanasia authorized by the Executive Board and chaired by Dr. Bonnie Beaver met at AVMA headquarters to update the 1993 euthanasia panel report. The panel developed a series of drafts and subsequently routed a final draft for comment in late June. Following consideration of comments, a final version was presented to the Executive Board for approval July 19, 2000 in Salt Lake City.

Although some on the board urged that the new report not be approved until more comment time is provided, the majority of board members voted to approve publication of the report in the JAVMA and preparation of 10,000 reprints.

Concerns discussed in the board meeting did not relate to the report's content or to the coverage of any species in the report. In fact, the board's role was not to review the document itself. The board had gone to great lengths to ensure that all areas were sufficiently addressed by appointing 17 members representing diverse fields of expertise when it formed the panel in November 1998. What was at issue were complaints from users of the report that 10 days had not been adequate for them to review the draft of the new report.

House Reference Committee 1 had recommended that the HOD indicate its disapproval of the board action. The reference committee heard from Dr. Pat Klein, an HSUS wildlife veterinarian, who referred to past euthanasia reports as the "gold standard" but saw some inconsistencies in the draft circulated for comment and urged that more review time be allowed. The version produced following outside comment, which was approved, is being edited and has not been released.

During the reference committee session, California delegate Dr. Michael P. Andrews said that user perceptions and confidence in the report are important. Iowa alternate delegate Dr. John P. Kluge said, "We are keepers of the animal kingdom. If we are being looked at for the standards of how animals are to be put to death, we've got to get it right."

At the board meeting, reference committee meeting, and HOD session, Dr. Beaver explained the current panel's thoroughness in distributing the '93 report, along with an invitation for suggested changes, to more than a hundred organizations at the beginning of the process. The panel considered hundreds of pages of outside comments from these groups and others, and reviewed the scientific literature. Dr. Beaver also explained that the duration of the comment period after the new draft was developed was dependent on the timing of board meetings.

Even the delegates favoring additional review time acknowledged and expressed appreciation to the Panel on Euthanasia for the extensive work they had accomplished.

The HOD disapproval of the panel report had only the effect of expressing delegates' dissatisfaction with the Executive Board's approval — specifically with the review process. Although the HOD action could not change the outcome, delegates' intent was to influence the board to reconsider their approval of the panel report.

Attentive to the HOD's concerns, the board did decide to reopen the topic for discussion at its scheduled July 22 meeting. A motion was entertained to delay the report and schedule a 60-day public comment period, but that was disapproved. The board's final decision was to abide by its approval of the panel report and its publication in the JAVMA, and to further recommend that the report be reviewed by the AVMA Council on Research as new information becomes available.

"This is a work in progress," Dr. Beaver told the HOD. "There is no single point of time in which it is complete."