- Advise the client of the options, risks, and cost estimates.
- Make no statements to the client that can be interpreted as a guarantee or warranty of results.
- Secure the owner’s written consent before performing any procedure. Examples include surgery, anesthesia, diagnostics, euthanasia, and alternative medicine. Make sure the owner understands the procedure to be performed.
- Do not hold yourself out as a specialist unless you are willing to be held to a higher standard of skill and competency.
- Ask if the animal has been under the care of another veterinarian. Obtain pertinent records when necessary.
- If equipment for a preferred diagnostic or treatment procedure is unavailable, postpone the procedure or treatment or recommend a referral. If under the circumstances it is necessary to proceed, advise the client of the risk involved and obtain the client’s written consent.
- Use appropriate identification techniques to avoid treating the wrong animal.
- Note in the medical record the procedure that the animal is admitted for and review those notations immediately before surgery to avoid performing the wrong procedure.
- Maintain detailed and accurate records of exam findings and treatment of animals in your care.
- Avoid having the owner assist—particularly in restraining animals.
- Communicate regularly with the client regarding the progress of the treatment, course of action, prognosis, and cost.
- If your treatment is unsuccessful, avoid questioning the original course of action. Present further options when appropriate.
- A necropsy should be performed when the cause of death is in question. Using a veterinary pathologist is recommended.
- Continue to communicate if it is productive. Tell the truth and do not speculate.
- Express compassion for the owner(s) and animal(s).
- Do not release original records or radiographs unless required by law. Provide copies if requested.
- Make no statements agreeing to the settlement of a malpractice charge.
- Any fee adjustment should be presented as a goodwill gesture.
- Call the PLIT office immediately if there is an event that could give rise to a claim. A client’s expression of dissatisfaction is sufficient reason for notification.
- Cooperate fully with your claim representatives.
- Do not discuss possible malpractice—your own or another veterinarian’s—with clients or their attorneys. If a client’s attorney contacts you, state that you will notify your insurance carrier to handle the matter.
- Maintain confidentiality of the veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
- Label all dispensed products. Include the warning of, “Keep out of reach of children.” If the product is toxic, mark it “Poison.” Use child resistant packaging whenever possible.
- Keep up with advancements in veterinary medicine.
- Be familiar with federal, state, and local laws affecting your practice including waste disposal, service of imaging equipment, compounding, drug labeling and storage, dispensing of controlled substances, and maintenance of records.
- Consider maintaining copies of client records at an off-site facility.
- Collection attempts may initiate malpractice allegations.
- Ask the pet owner if he or she understands and if there are any questions or concerns.
If you have any questions about these guidelines or require advice about a specific malpractice concern, please call the PLIT at 800-228-7548.
These guidelines do not replace or supersede any federal, state, or local laws. These are guidelines only and are not intended to set a standard of care.