For the first time in the history of The Supervet, four brand new hour-long documentary specials go beyond the operating table to delve deeper into the science behind Noel Fitzpatrick's cutting-edge procedures, revealing how he continually pushes the boundaries of veterinary medicine.
We're lucky enough to be able to share this interview with you, with Noel Fitzpatrick talking all about the new series!
Why is this new series of Supervet so different?
This is the first series of Supervet where we focus on the science behind the life-enhancing bionic surgery that I do every day. I was determined that this new bionic series would also continue to be about love, hope, and redemption through the eyes of people who love their animals and animals who love their families. In this special four-part series, we focus on the technological revolution in bioengineering and regenerative medicine which has enabled these animals to receive advanced surgeries.
Many of these procedures and implant systems have never been seen before. Some of them are world firsts. We are in the midst of great change in medicine. For me, this is a deeply personal series of films which chart the evolution of thought regarding techniques and implants which have taken place over more than a decade.
Why should viewers make a special effort to watch these new episodes?
I strongly feel that anyone who is interested in love, health, and something to look forward to, should watch these programmes. They represent a paradigm shift in our awareness of possibility and responsibility for our animal friends and importantly, for ourselves in the future.
The definition of 'bionic' is having an anatomical structures or physiological processes that are replaced or enhanced by electronic or mechanical components. Bionic limbs and regenerative medicine involving stem cells and three-dimensional printing of implants will be seen for the very first time by most of the audience. The implants and technique are so advanced that it may be several years before some of them are available in human patients.
This new series is therefore a peg in the ground for advances in medical technology that can and should change the world we live in for the better, bringing hope to hundreds of thousands of animals and humans that desperately need cures for their diseases.
What are the challenges you face when using new technology to help your patients?
The main challenge nowadays is not so much the technology, because pretty much everything is possible, it is the moral and ethical implications of moving forward. Many people, both within and outside the veterinary profession, believe that we should not move forward with custom joint replacements and bionic limbs or spinal disc replacements and regenerative medicine in pet dogs and cats because the current options of full limb amputation or euthanasia may, in their view, be kinder for the animal.
Meanwhile, all of these technologies will be tried out in experimental animals for the benefit of humans. How is this fair? Should veterinary medicine move forward or stay still? The decisions we make must always be in the best interests of the patient and it is not enough to be able to do something, it has to be the right thing to do for that patient in that moment in time.
People simply do not realise that they have choice and that the phrase "it cannot be done" is, to some extent, obsolete. It's more a case of, is it in the best welfare interests of that particular animal at this moment in time for this family that loves them.
I personally get some criticism for moving things too far in veterinary medicine and yet, I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I would never pick up a scalpel blade and operate on any animal if I wouldn't do it on my own dog or if I didn't feel I could provide that animal with a reasonable quality of life in a reasonable time frame because it was the right thing to do.
What does making these special bionic programmes mean to you personally?
I think that if people really watch these programmes and understand the breadth and depth of experience in the animal and human field that go into the development of each and every initiative, they will realise that there is an entire team of compassionate, caring people - desperately trying to do their best for the animal kingdom with a view to making a real difference to that animal and to the wider world.
These programmes chart the last fifteen years or so of my efforts to move medical techniques forward for the good of our animal friends. Ever since I started out as a child wanting to be a vet, all I ever wanted to do was make things better and find solutions where existing options were poor. Looking back on the journey, I recognise the cost emotionally and financially because in the development of any technique or implant, one must do so for love. I hope that these programmes will go some way to countering any doubt that surrounds motivation for progress in medicine and explains to people the thought, the effort and the love that goes into each and every implant and technique.
When you look into the future in your bionic world, what is your greatest hope and your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is that humans will continue to use animals for advancements in human medicine without reciprocating the development of implants and drugs for the benefit of animals. It does not make sense to me to sacrifice the lives of tens of thousands of animals to develop drugs and implants for humans that those animals never get to see. It would be much better in my opinion, if information were shared between veterinary and human medicine simultaneously.
I think that within the next two generations we will determine the fate of many animals on planet Earth and my greatest hope for the children of future generations is that we maintain biodiversity and we look after our animal friends, because by doing so we really do look after ourselves. It's all about respect, for the animals, for the planet, and for each other. To my mind, there is no other rational option and in a very real sense these programmes explain the charter for my mission on The Earth.
*The second episode of the new series is on Channel 4 tonight at 8pm.