Should we shine some light on the online trolls in veterinary medicine?
Veterinarians are killing themselves. That is a fact. There are a lot of theories about why. It’s complicated. But one thing we know about this difficult profession is that clients can be exceptionally hard on veterinarians. Whether they are asking for unreasonable services or access that you would never dream of asking of a physician, or complaining about costs, or just straight up abusing veterinarians, the client part of this equation is difficult to ignore.
One area that I find troubling is the online trolling and, let’s just call it what it is, abuse. Thinly veiled reviews or not at all thinly veiled insults and abuse are running rampant. Most of the vitriol has a theme, and that theme is that people are mad about the cost of veterinary care. Likely also embarrassed and grief stricken about the fact that their pet is sick and they can not afford to take care of them, but instead of reflecting on that, these trolls choose to attack veterinarians as “heartless” or “crooks” or worse. Recently, I saw a post that shocked me, it got in my head. (See figure at bottom, with the identifiers removed. Warning, it is horrific.) It was a post that a client wrote on a veterinary hospital’s Facebook site. This is an emergency hospital that saw a cat with a urethral obstruction. This is a universally fatal condition without treatment. Treatment is costly and lifelong management of this problem is needed. The client did not have the funds to pay for treatment of their cat, so they elected euthanasia. This is not what anyone wants, but it is better than the alternative scenario, which is the cat suffering and dying a terrible death. The client publicly posted, “This heartless piece of shit would rather kill than save over $$$..I hope you rot in hell goat fucker”. They even made a fancy graphic so it was easier to read. And they posted it directly from their Facebook profile. Shameless.
The veterinary hospital involved posted this on a closed Facebook site for social media support to ask for advice on how to handle it. Heartbreakingly, they still wondered if they should send the family a sympathy card. Side thought, if someone calls you a “goat fucker”, you do not need to send them a sympathy card. They do not deserve your kindness and compassion. I think that this may be the very definition…