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Supervet Discusses the Ethics of 3D Printing Technology for Veterinary Medicine




Professor Noel Fitzpatrick is one of the most prominent doctors of veterinary medicine in the UK. Featured on the show The Supervet on Channel 4, Fitzpatrick performs live-saving operations for people’s beloved pets, often making use of advanced technologies like 3D printing in his procedures.


Despite his skills, Fitzpatrick says whether or not to keep animals alive is a moral decision, more than a scientific assessment. He says that 3D printing and other technological advancements have made it so he can cure nearly any pet’s ailment, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he should.


Fitzpatrick told recently that he and other vets have an obligation to focus on the value their services bring to the pet’s future quality of life before deciding to subject them to invasive surgeries.


His veterinary practice located in Surrey has been among the first to use advanced medical techniques such as creating bionic legs for people’s pets.


He also said that no matter how much money he might receive by performing complex operations, he takes the time to consider which outcome will be best for the animal before agreeing to do it.

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He said, “The bottom line now is that anything is possible, if you have a blood and nerve supply.”


“That means that we now have a line in the sand: not what is ‘possible’ but what is ‘right.’ In the past it was just the case of if it wasn't possible, you'd move to euthanasia.”


Dr. Fitzpatrick said ever since he began using 3D printed joints with living tissue as part of his procedures, he spends every day walking a moral tightrope.


At the same time, he thinks animals are very deserving of the most modern medical technologies, given the role they played in drug and medical testing for human medicine historically.


“They've given us all their lives for research, quite simply it's time to give something back.”


The Supervet is returning to TV with a new series featuring Dr. Fitzpatrick’s treatment of Jersey, the first three-legged cat to ever have a hip replacement.


Jersey lost a leg after being hit by a car. Fitzpatrick needed to create a new hip that moved in a unique way so she could balance on three legs alone.


He said, “It was a sweet cat. She had a slipping kneecap and really severe hip arthritis. Most cats can manage three legs but this one couldn’t."

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Jersey’s medications weren’t helping her, which is why her owner wanted to pursue a compete hip replacement.


Dr. Fitzpatrick said, “It would have been easy to put her to sleep. Was that the right choice? The other options for pain control were suboptimal. But it worked.”


Jersey’s story is just one of many unique cases featured on The Supervet, often involving novel medical solutions with the help of 3D printing.


Image Credits: DailyMail, Supervet


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