In a survey conducted some years ago, complaints made to veterinary medical boards was cited as the most stressful event in veterinary practice. There is no doubt that receipt of a notification from a veterinary board is an intensely stressful and life-changing event for most veterinarians. We have seen too many veterinarians facing board action go into depression, suicide or leave the profession. Board actions place the right to practice in jeopardy and challenge your very existence as a veterinarian. When a board action goes bad, the consequences can be devastating for the veterinarian.
We are approached for help all too often by veterinarians who are not VDA members, who are soon to face an administrative hearing or trial, or face the prospect of signing a board consent agreement that changes their lives, or who have already had their licences suspended or revoked. These are often veterinarians who had a good case and ought to have been exonerated, but have been the victims of attorneys who do not understand veterinary medicine, case management and ethics, or who have represented themselves and made fundamental errors in their representation. As much as we would like to help them, their case has been so badly presented and the damage so extensive that there is little we can do for them.
The effective management of licence defence starts with THE EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT OF INCIDENTS. If the incident was not effectively managed in the first place, then the chances of a successful later defence of your licence are diminished. If you made an error at the time of the incident, the time to fix the error (and/or compensate the owner) is at that time. Veterinarians who do not pay proper attention to owner grievances at the time may not be able to recover from a challenge to their licence.
The next step in the effective management of licence defence is to take advantage of the VDA’s extensive experience in investigating cases and formulating responses to the owner’s complaints. Veterinarians are not lawyers and most lawyers are not competent to formulate responses for veterinarians, since they do not understand or have sufficient knowledge of veterinary medicine, case management or ethics.
The VDA provides a full service Veterinary Board defence program, including compiling the member’s defence theme and responses to the allegations as well as all correspondence with the board, and arranges expert witnesses and legal representation for hearings and trials.