Doctors Professional Indemnity

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Legal cases against veterinarian doctors

Introduction

Like any other doctor, veterinarian doctors have a huge responsibility on them. Understanding the problem of and treating a species that cannot speak what it feels is considerably more difficult than treating humans. People who entrust these doctors with their pets create a fiduciary relationship with them, and thus also entrust the doctor with the emotions they have for the pet, or any other animal concerned. Therefore, if any negligence occurs on the part of a vet, it not only harms the animal but also damages the trust put in the doctor as part of his job profile. In this article, I will discuss a few legal actions that have been filed against veterinarian doctors on the line of negligence or like.

Recent significant legal matters against veterinarians

2015– It was the case of Dr. T. Kiran Kumar vs. Amedio Joseph Wilson Noronha. The plaintiff was the owner of a pet named Fluffy, who died at the OP clinic on the 17th of June 2012. The OP is a practising veterinarian in Malbhat, Margao. The complainant took Fluffy on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 to the clinic, and claimed that he had put Fluffy in good health and that when he admitted Fluffy, she had a small temporary limp in his left back. During inspection, the surgeon found that Fluffy has a temperature of 102.6 F, a discomfort in the hip/hind leg and pain while bending and stretching his limb and a tense tummy. The OP provided Fluffy with two injections, intravenous tramadol and intramuscular Neohepatex, and asked the complainant to come back on the 14th and 15th for repeating her injections. On 15 June 2012, after coming back home, the plaintiff saw that Fluffy’s anus was bleeding. The complainant called the OP and was instructed to keep a watch on Fluffy and to alert him it the bleeding occurs again. The complainant afterwards informed the doctor of the surgery that Fluffy had and the bleeding issue. When the problem re-occurred Fluffy was taken to OP’s clinic close to midnight. When the OP physician came to the clinic, he summoned his senior assistant who saw Fluffy laying prostrate and unable to walk or stand. His mucous membranes were pale and nearly white, and his temperature fell to 96.3F with other complications. Fluffy was stabilised by a series of injections. When Fluffy was in the drip but alert complainant came home with a signal that Fluffy was stable, could stand upright and had not passed blood through stool. But then at about 14:00 Hrs the bleeding again started. The body of Fluffy was transferred to the complainant and his family, who were heartbroken by the loss of their pet. The OP suggested an autopsy which according to OP doctor, was opposed by the complainant. The complainant also did not carry out an autopsy and his explanation is that he approached two distinguished vets but they were not able to do so. His further explanation is that Government vet hospitals were closed.

The complainant’s submissions did not impress the SCDRC. First of all, the Commission indicated that the complaint did not indicate that, on 15 June 2012, the plaintiff sought any scan, blood or stool examination and that if the complaint had taken place, the OP would have replied swiftly. Secondly, did the plaintiff ask for any of these tests? Certainly not. After the complainant refused to take an X-ray, wasn’t Fluffy’s treatment based on symptoms conservatively? The answer is in the affirmative. The Lr. District Forum has concluded that Fluffy died due to improper treatment given by the OP. How does the Lr. Forum know that the treatment given was improper? In this regard, SCDRC stated that negligence cannot be presumed but has to be proved. The whole case of the plaintiff relied on the principle of res ipsa loquitur. It is well recognised that a practitioner cannot be held accountable for negligence just because things went wrong due to misadventure or misadventures, or because the patient did not respond favourably or because he failed in choosing one appropriate course of treatment compared with another.

2018 In Bengaluru, there was yet another incident. After a pet dog they operated, died a week later in KR Puram, three veterinary physicians and the owner of a company that partners with the BBMP to undertake animal birth control drives got into difficulty. Kadugodi police registered a criminal case against Aruna Reddy and doctors Darshan, Mahalingeshwar, and Muniraju, all of whom worked for Sushma Enterprises in KR Puram, based on a complaint filed by Ravi Narayan, a representative of Action for Animal Justice, an NGO. The four were charged under Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, as well as IPC sections 428 and 429, according to police (both pertaining to killing or maiming of animals). On February 20, 2018, the dog Susane, owned by retired IAF employee Sushiraj, was taken to Sushma Enterprises for birth control surgery, according to complainant Narayan. On February 22, the dog stopped eating. The owner assumed it was avoiding eating because of pain, but it soon began vomiting and died on February 27. At KR Puram Veterinary Hospital, a post-mortem was performed. The complainant stated that the doctors botched the operation and the dog died as a result of their carelessness.

Another incident that happened in this year was unique in regards to its location. In a first instance in the state, the State Veterinary Council of Maharashtra punished two veterinary practitioners for “negligence towards the patient.” The council suspended Dr Dilip Sonune and Dr A Gujarathi from ‘My Pet Centre’, Hadapsar, Pune, for three months, on the treatment of a golden retriever who died at the clinic. On 1 October 2018, Dr Dilip Sonune and Dr A Gujarathi of the ‘My Pet Care’ Veterinary Center in Pune (Hadapsar) were issued a letter of suspension and, in accordance with the Council, were not allowed to operate or to practise until 1 December 2018. The animal died from parvovirus infection as reported after autopsy. However, many doctors of the veterinary community criticised this approach and asked for a proper investigation which would provide the doctor sufficient space to speak out. Dr Dilip even stated he was not treating the patient physically and so his suspension generated hostility.

2019- A criminal negligence charge was brought against a veterinary physician when a dog died at the home of K Chandrashekar Rao, Chief Minister of Telangana in Hyderabad. The eleven-month-old dog, called “Haski,” allegedly died after he received an injection from the doctor. In a report lodged by Asif Ali Khan, the pet dog keeper at the household of the Chief Minister, the police recorded the case and initiated investigations. The complaint claims that the dog was killed by the doctor and the clinician. This subject, however, turned political and the complaint was marked as a political gimmick to withdraw public attention from the mounting dengue cases the government failed to address.

2020- One of the recent events took place in Kolkata. In 2019, a pet dog died owing to the doctor’s negligence. Consequently, Dr Subas Sarkar was hauled before the West Bengal Veterinary Council (WBVC). In the beginning of last year, the council got a complaint from Rebanta and Manisha Bhattacharya that their pet Liza had died while being treated by Sarkar. The pet parent from the TN Chaterjee Street of Kolkata said that the beagle died because of the veterinarian’s neglect. A team of veterinarians that investigated Liza’s treatment identified deficiencies on Sarkar’s part. During the hearing he was called to the council office in Belgachhia multiple times to defend himself. But Sarkar couldn’t turn up. On 31 July 2019, Sarkar was also requested to answer the accusations of culpability and neglect. But the council received no reaction. Accordingly, WBVC judged Sarkar guilty of violation of the standard professional code of ethics at its meeting held on 29 November 2019. On January 6, 2020, the council decided to struck off the vet’s registration for six months starting from January 10.

Conclusion

Angered loved ones turning against negligent doctors when patients die while undergoing treatment is a common occurrence in India. However, the patients in those cases are usually human. But the aforementioned instances reflect that doctors cannot take a patient for granted whether it is human or not. These verdicts by the council have been lauded by pet lovers. They feel that actions like these would instil a sense of fear and responsibility in veterinary doctors. Animals also feel pain but they cannot express it in words like humans. So, such wrong treatment is and should always be a punishable offence. But it is important to note that just like cases involving a human’s death, even the pet parents tend to turn against innocent doctors because of being engulfed by the grief of their pet’s death. In order to ensure that fair decision is made, commission must make sure that both the sides are heard properly, a thorough investigation is done, and every doubt is addressed. Negligence should not just be presumed but proven in every case.

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