Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Virginia Vet Gives "Sparky" the Dog an Overdose of Chemotherapy Drugs

Virginia Vet Stephanie Henderson -- a practising vet at Middleburg Animal Hospital in Middleburg, Virginia, "misread the dosage chart for [Sparky's] chemotherapy medication and administered approximately 50 mg. of Cisplatin instead of the required 30 mg. As a result, 'Sparky' suffered from an overdose and was euthanized on November 27, 2006."

What did Sparky experience before he died as a result of this overdose?

Well, in the case of a human overdose with Cisplatin, the victim experienced:

"progressive hearing loss, kidney failure, a reduction of body calcium and festering sores because his immune system was weakened. " Ultimately, the victim died.


Let's compare what happened to the doctors involved in these two cases, shall we?

In the case of veterinarian Henderson -- she was fined $300, and ordered to take 4 hours of continuing education classes in calculating and administering chemotherapy.

In the case of the doctor in the human case (whose "name has not been disclosed" -- gee, wouldn't you like to know who he is so you and your loved ones can avoid him?), the hospital suspended him from clinical duties. In other words -- at least for the time being -- he was stopped from practising . (That was apparently proactive action taken by the hospital, not the medical board).

If your vet is treating your animal for a condition, such as cancer -- have you investigated his or her skill level in treating the disease? Do you have assurances that this vet is experienced enough to -- for example -- competently calculate doses for your pet? Have you done online research yourself and/or gotten a second opinion to double-check on the dose and treatment protocol?

And if the vet makes an error like the one described above -- WHAT do you think the State Vet Board, and/or the owners of the hospital where the vet is employed, should do? Do you think that the actions taken are strong enough to protect our pets?

None of the questions above are intended to imply that any of what happened to poor Sparky -- who was obviously a VERY loved dog -- is the responsibility of his owner. QUITE THE CONTRARY. The responsibility for such tragic and horrifying incidents is entirely with the culpable veterinarian and her employers -- who clearly employed no fail-safes to double check doses. The owner should have been able to trust that this veterinarian would give the right dose to her dog, whose life she or he was obviously desperately trying to save, probably at great cost! Instead of saving Sparky, the vets error was responsible for his death, as it led to him having to be euthanized.

However, although the veterinarians are ENTIRELY to blame for these things, as I have learned myself the hard way, these people will NEVER take responsibility and the system that regulates them will never protect us -- from sloppiness, errors, or worse. Therefore, it's very advisable to double check on your vet whenever you can. There is nothing we as owners can do to entirely protect our pets from veterinary errors like this, but our only choice is to be as vigilent as possible -- because heaven knows, the vets and vet practices and those who regulate them, hardly do anything about these things and aren't vigilent at all.

After reading about this story, I began wondering if there was any thing that could have been done to save Sparky after this overdose was given. I found the following information on the use of plasmapheresis in cases of cisplatin overdose, although I would guess this must be done before the kidney damage caused by the overdose has progressed too far in order to work:

Link to disciplinary record: