Dr. Eugene Aversa, DVM, is a seasoned General Practice Small Animal Veterinarian with an unwavering commitment to animal welfare and compassionate care. With a wealth of experience spanning twenty-four years, Dr. Aversa is deeply grounded in Conventional Diagnostics, Medicine, Surgery, and Anesthesia.
A graduate of The Ohio State University, where he earned his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine in 1998, Dr. Aversa has been on a lifelong journey dedicated to the well-being of animals. His passion for animals traces back to his early childhood, influenced by his father’s empathetic nature towards stray cats and the nurturing environment created by his great-grandmother and her brother, who shared a profound love for animals.
Dr. Aversa’s journey into veterinary medicine was marked by various impactful experiences. As a young man, he volunteered at an animal shelter and later produced a weekly television show shedding light on the challenges faced by animals in shelters across the US. His commitment extended to attending animal rights marches, advocating for peace and justice for animals worldwide.
During his veterinary education, Dr. Aversa demonstrated exceptional dedication. Instead of using a horse cadaver for dissection, he opted for a pony that had passed away naturally, earning praise for his neuro-dissection skills. In another instance, he and a classmate rescued a horse named Gulliver from slaughter, providing him with a new life on a farm in Michigan.
In a poignant act of compassion, Dr. Aversa also rescued a pig named Emma, sparing her from post-surgical slaughter. Emma found sanctuary in Michigan alongside several Pot-Bellied pigs, reflecting Dr. Aversa’s commitment to ethical veterinary practices.
Throughout his career, Dr. Aversa continued to give back to the community. He donated his professional services to a local canine sanctuary dedicated to geriatric dogs, exemplifying his dedication to improving the lives of animals in need.
In his personal life, Dr. Aversa has been the proud guardian of several rescued animals, including his dog Mel and cats Martha, Jaime, Freddie, Figaro, and many more. His commitment to their well-being is evident, with stories of nursing injured animals back to health and providing them with a life of comfort.
As a veterinarian, Dr. Aversa consistently places the needs of animals first. He prides himself on thorough case management, ensuring a holistic approach to diagnosis and treatment. Dr. Aversa maintains open communication with clients, offering detailed explanations to honor their love and concern for their pets.
For Dr. Eugene Aversa, veterinary medicine is not just a profession—it’s a lifelong calling to be of service to the animals and the people who cherish them. His enduring dedication to compassionate care underscores a profound belief that, no matter what challenges arise, it’s always about serving the needs of the animals and those who love them.
Euthanasia is obviously a large topic in veterinary medicine. The animals, the clients, the staff, and the veterinarian are all affected. What are your general thoughts?
Well, to be honest, as a younger veterinarian just starting out, I was frightened by it. I thought I would be playing God in taking a life and deciding exactly when that life would end. Over. Done. Forever. I felt something deep inside that I could not take on that level of responsibility. It was just too huge.
So, at first, I avoided it altogether. But I was lucky enough to have another doctor in my practice that agreed to perform them for me. And he did. How many colleagues would do that? Not many, I can assure you.
So, do you perform euthanasia now?
Yes, I do.
What was it then that convinced you to go against your deeply held convictions?
I have a very sympathetic and empathetic side to me, especially when it comes to the animals. So, as I came to see more and more patients in various conditions, and witnessed more and more suffering, I slowly realized that constant misery can be worse than death itself. It sounds obvious on the surface. But to see real, in your face, suffering on a regular basis is quite a different experience for most people. It was for me. It affects you and changes you.
I also came to understand that circumstances had to be considered as well. In human medicine, there is usually someone or some way that we get care even in the most extreme situations. We have in-home nurses, long term hospitalization, nursing homes, rehab facilities, and hospice. And all of these are usually covered by health insurance. But in veterinary medicine, these are not options.
To keep Ginger, the sweet, over-weight, immobile, elderly Labrador Retriever, laying in her waste all day until her family gets home from work is of course terrible. And for how long can Ginger’s family come home and be faced with the clean up? And what happens when an elderly couple cannot give the necessary oral medication to their cat, and the cat just continues to deteriorate? I can give many more examples, but they obviously all come down to circumstance and quality of life.
So, after practicing for that first year and learning more about the hard realities that some face, I guess my heart got broken a bit, and consequently my corners got rounded too.
Do you ever refuse to euthanize a client’s animal?
Yes, but not often. I will never euthanize an animal that has good quality of life no matter what the circumstances. At that point, it is down to the client to make other arrangements.
How have clients reacted when you have turned them down?
I see various reactions. Some people are understanding and will turn to other options. Of course, some get angry and leave disgruntled. But often people just assume that nothing can be done and request euthanasia. They are pleasantly surprised to hear that perhaps all is not lost, and it turns out to be a very happy ending after all.
But I must make it clear that the reverse is also true. After a full assessment, I will gently tell a client that there is little hope for improvement if I deem it to be so, and at those times, I whole heartedly recommend a merciful, peaceful ending.
I imagine that people react very differently to losing their pet. Can you describe what you have seen?
Again, it is variable. Most people, of course, are very sad. Occasionally, people are devastated and will sob over their pet uncontrollably while telling them how much they love them and will miss them forever. In both cases, I try to be a simple technician performing a duty and let them have the space to handle it naturally without much interference. I tell them they can spend as much time as they like to say their goodbyes, and I quietly leave the room. After all, it is a once in a lifetime moment.
And then there are the people who cannot cope with seeing their pet euthanized and do not wish to be present. They say their goodbyes and then leave me to perform the euthanasia. I understand that some cannot witness that painful moment, but I feel the pet should know their family is with them at such a time. I always have a tough time performing these.
Lastly, there are some who do not seem overly moved at all. I do not understand this, but there it is.
Euthanasia is spoken about by many veterinarians and the impact it can have on them. How has it affected you?
First let me say that it is a great honor to be asked to relieve the suffering of a loved one, and I take it very seriously. However, having to experience the end of life repeatedly, especially while family members are saying tearful goodbyes, takes its toll. It seems to have deepened me to some of the harsher realities of life. But I would like to think that I have helped others in some meaningful way, and this is why I became a veterinarian in the first place.
What advice can you give to people who are considering euthanasia for their pet?
People often ask me, “What would you do if he were yours?” It is a fair question, and I always give an honest answer one way or the other.
Look to your veterinarian for technical advice. He or she can give you their considered opinion on the practicality and cost of treatment, and most importantly, the prognosis for a life worth living.
But after consideration, no one can make that decision for you. Only you know your pet intimately. Only you know what they would want in that moment. Only you know what is right for you both. Listen to your heart, and you will know.
After all this time as a veterinarian, what are your final thoughts on euthanasia?
It’s funny; As someone who started out unable to euthanize at all, I have come to know that when appropriately administered, euthanasia is one of the best services we provide for our patients and the clients that bring them to us.
It is a very heavy thing to watch the life go out of someone’s eyes as I watch my hand slowly making it happen. But when I consider that I am putting an end to this individual’s suffering, I forgive myself and know that in my heart, it was the right and good thing to do.