One pet owner stood up for all of us in a letter to Veterinarian Christopher J. Allen DVM, JD regarding his article ‘5 types of potentially litigious veterinary clients’. These are words that needed to be said and need to be heard.
First, some quotes from Dr. Allen’s article:
“Throughout my career as a practice owner, I have been hesitant to suggest that clients look elsewhere for veterinary services. Particularly in my early years, I never wanted to give up a client, and this policy usually served me well. However, now that I’m a little older and wiser, I’ve learned that there are certain instances in which clients need to be fired — or politely asked to seek veterinary care elsewhere.”
“Be concerned when taking on advanced or sophisticated treatments on behalf of clients who express serious dissatisfaction with their previous experience with a specialty practice or university teaching hospital.”
“Be concerned when a client asks you to repeat, with annoying specificity, the medications, surgical techniques or treatment approaches you intend to employ or have employed in working up a case.”
“Be concerned when owners are convinced that previous treatments or surgeries at another veterinary clinic are the cause of some new problem that is presented to your hospital.”
Read the full article from Dr. Allen here: http://veterinarynews.dvm360.com/dvm/Veterinary+business/5-types-of-potentially-litigious-veterinary-client/ArticleStandard/Article/detail/684689
And now for the Pet Owner reply…
“I just recently read your profound article: “5 types of potentially litigious veterinary clients: If you see them coming be concerns—and ask them to seek veterinary care elsewhere.” Your article was forwarded to me by other pet guardians who have had horrible experiences with vets while their pets were under their care.
“Be concerned when a client asks you to repeat, with annoying specificity, the medications, surgical techniques or treatment approaches you intend to employ or have employed in working up a case. That often implies that this client is acting out that old chestnut, ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.’ This saying is true and a little knowledge can be dangerous for your reputation and your practice when litigation or state board claims later ensue, initiated by some self-appointed specialist/client.”
Let me ask you this Chris, if you took your child to the doctor because she was sick and you, being in the medical profession, asked very specific questions about the surgery or medical treatment being suggested, would you be considered a “potentially litigious client” for that doctor? Your article is both alarming, disappointing, and very “vet-centered.” It is because of vets like you who have become desensitized to the reason you became a vet in the first place and are more concerned with the business side of what you do than the compassion side of “standard of care” for animal welfare that there continues to be those “potentially litigious clients” to be weary of.
There are plenty of quality veternarians who do a wonderful job daily, and to those individuals, I commend them. And then there are the bad apples, just as in any profession, who make it a little more difficult to trust everyone and everything. I used to trust all my vets and think my dogs were always in the best care under the care of thier vet.
Until this past June when my dog of 7 years, Ruby, was killed on the interstate in Denver because she got out of her BROKEN crate and through an OPEN back door at the vet. I dropped her off at 8:30am and within two hours she was hit and killed instantly on the highway because of the negligence and carelessness of the vet and her staff. The crate had been broken for three years according to an employee there, and the door had been propped open so the vet tech could take the vet’s dog out and walk it. My dog let herself out of her crate, let herself out of the back door that was left open, and made it 18 blocks to the highway before being struck and killed instantly. Imagine making that phone call as a vet. Imagine receiving that phone call as a pet guardian. Which is worse here Chris? Of course with your vet-centered thinking, it would be worse for you, right?
This was my wake up call to make others aware, including myself, not to so easily trust who is watching or caring for your pet. If you think for a minute that after something like this that I am not going to ask many questions, ask to see the facilities, doors in the back, crates animals are kept in, history of past violations, THINK AGAIN! I have just become that “potentially litigious client” because the VET was negligent and careless first, not the other way around. Which came first? The negligence came first. It was not an “accident” as it was clearly very preventable from happening.
Not sure why vets should really worry about “potentially litigious clients” as there is no accountability or enforcment with teeth in place for vets in most states now anyway. The last time I checked Chris, pets are treated as property. This system has worked well for the vets, resulting in low and predictable costs of veterinary services.
However, justice has not been served for the animals or their masters in many cases. Many animal lovers regard the system as overly harsh because of the very strong emotions pet owners feel when a pet is injured or dies because of another’s negligence, such as the case with Ruby. As a result, advocates of change to the traditional damage rules in animal cases encourage courts and legislatures to award non-economic damages in pet cases. Unfortunately the current laws in most states do not accurately reflect societal views relating to the human-animal bond. Public attitudes and psychological evidence indicate that in our society it is pretty clear that pets are thought of more as family members than as inanimate objects or mere “property.” It is time to continue fighting for the justice of our animal companions and hold those to a higher accountability who provide medical and other services for our pets. The current laws are archaic and need to be challenged.
Your article echos the desensitization and lack of compassion some vets have and has reiterated the need for the consumer to continue to be careful about the choices they make with their animal companions.
Let me ask you, what would you DO if this happened to you? Would you be as trusting?”
Walking in someone else’s shoes teaches many things. Let’s hope Dr. Allen and other veterinarians learn from this Pet Owners story.
My thanks to this Pet Owner for standing up for her pet and her rights as an educated Pet Owner.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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