Sunday, May 18, 2008

" . . . veterinary malpractice . . . is without question the source of most harm to companion animals"

" . . . veterinary malpractice . . . is without question the source of most harm to companion animals"

This quote comes from the fascinating document, "Harming Companion Animals: Liability and Damages," written by Henry Mark Holzer, a professor at Brookly Law School.

This document, among other things, provides information on some landmark case law in the area of veterinary malpractice, including an account of the successful veterinary malpractice case brought by plaintiff "Kenny" against veterinarians F. Richard Lesser, Mark T. Meddleton, and Earl M. Gaughan. In this veterinary malpractice case Kenny was awarded $100,000 in New York State for the loss of his horse, a three-year old thoroughbred race horse.

This judgement was upheld on appeal in the year 2000.

The abridged account of the case cited in the "Harming Companion Animals" document includes the following information:

" . . . [the] plaintiff's three-year-old thoroughbred race horse underwent arthroscopic surgery for removal of a chip fracture in his right front fetlock [performed by defendant] . . . the horse was anesthetized with a combination of drugs, the bone chip was successfully removed and the horse was transported to a recovery stall. While in recovery, the horse went into cardiac arrest and died."

The horse's owner, Kenny, said that his horse had been over-anesthetized and had not been properly monitored during surgery, and that the horses death was therefore caused by the actions of the veterinarians.

"There was no dispute at trial that plaintiff's horse succumbed to the effects of the anesthesia administered during surgery. The debate was over whether this horse was among the small percentage of equine patients that simply do not survive anesthesia through no fault of the surgeon and/or anesthesiologist . . .or whether an act or omission on the part of [the veterinarians Lesser, Meddleton, and Gaughan] caused his death . . ."

Kenny, the horse's owner, had an expert testify. The expert was Nicholas Dodman, a board certified veterinary anesthetist who is a professor at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine.

Dodman testified that "the care and treatment rendered by [the anesthetist and surgeon] included departures from accepted standards of veteirnary practice which caused the horse's death.

Dodman said that "the dosage of one particular drug administered to the horse . . . over a short period of time, particularly in conjunction with the admnistration of a large dosage of another drug . . . and an inordinately high level of a gaseous volatile anesthetic . . . constituted a departure from accepted standards of veterinary care. These dosages, according to Dodman, caused the horse to become respiratorily and cardiovascularly depressed, a condition which went undetected . . . When disconnected from pure oxygen after surgery, Dodman's testimony continued, the horse could not sustain himself on room air only. Dodman also opined that the monitoring procedures employed . . . were substandard."

Specifically Dodman said that when the anesthetic Halothane (known to depress cardiovascular and respiratory systems) is being administered, standard practice requires that a patient be monitored by the use of an aneroid gauge to measure blood pressure, blood gas monitoring equipment and/or an electrocardiogram monitor. This was not done by the vets who did surgery on Kenny's horse, who said that they merely observed the horse visually and took a peripheral pulse. (Note: The owner, who was in the room at the time, said that the veterinarian NEVER took the horses pulse.]

Dodman also noted that one of the veterinarians had failed to record notes in the patient record that might have enabled him to document and see the developing trend of respiratory and cardic depression in the horse. "Dodman opined that [when] . . . an orthopaedic patient is anesthetized with gaseous Halothane, it is a departure from standard practice not to keep such notes."

It was also established at trield that after Kenny's horse died, the veterinarian created a chart of the entire procedure retroactively. The document says that this post-operative record attempts to document, in time and dosage the various drugs administered during surgery, as well as the horse's vital signs at intervals. THIS RECORD WAS NOT CREATED during the surgery itself. The jury further learned that after creating this chart, the veterinarian made additional changes to it.

[Lies and the lying liars who tell them, huh?]

In Holzer's analysis, the Kenny v. Lesser case demonstrates: conduct below the acceptable standard of care because of the way the anesthesia was handled and monitored; foreseeable injury or death if it was not handled and monitored correctly; and not having done so being the proximate cause of the horse's death.

As mentioned above, the jury awarded Kenny $100,000 for the loss of his horse.


Information on the Kenny v. Lesser appeal

Information on the Document, "Harming Companion Animals: Liability and Damages," by Henry Mark Holzer. I really recommend you order a copy from the Institute for Animal Rights Law.

Here is a link to a veterinary technician manual which says that animals on halothane require close monitoring.

Summary of an article from the journal "Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia" on the cardiovascular and respiratory depressant effects of halothane used in horses

Abstract of a Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine Article on Malignant Hyperthermia, a Problem Seen with the Use of Halothane in Horses