TheDogPlace presents an update on SC Veterinary Legislation which compels release of malpractice records to the public. Marcia Rosenberg's pet nearly died during routine spay by a vet with a lot of "history." She filed on behalf of all who have lost pets due to negligent vets whose records could not be accessed. We trust our children and pets to strangers. They should not be strangers as regards their capabilities!
Owner Wants Vets' Mistakes Made Public
Lawmaker urges open disciplinary process
BY JAMES SCOTT - The Post and Courier (2/06)
A Mount Pleasant woman whose cat was nearly killed during a botched surgery by a local veterinarian is pushing for state legislation that would make complaints against vets public information.
Marcia Rosenberg said the measure is the best way for pet owners to know whether to trust a vet's care or look elsewhere.
Still, some in the veterinary community are pushing to muzzle complaints unless the state takes disciplinary action, arguing that false accusations could ruin reputations and hurt vets' businesses, particularly in small towns.
Bills pending in the House and Senate could gag complainants from talking publicly. A Lowcountry lawmaker, however, has filed an amendment to the Senate bill that would open the process to the public shortly after the initial complaint is filed. The issue is expected to come up for debate before the end of the session.
"What is driving me is the public has a right to know details about the veterinarian that they chose to care for their pets. That is the bottom line," Rosenberg said. "Everything comes back to that."
Like doctors, veterinarians are regulated by the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. When complaints are filed against vets with the state, investigators look into them.
If evidence exists backing up a complaint, the matter goes before the state's Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, which decides what, if any, punishment is warranted. That hearing, similar to a trial, is closed to the public under existing law. Even the complainant is barred from attending the hearing unless called as a witness. Rosenberg's initiation to the process began about five years ago after her cat, Pumpkin, was nearly killed when she was spayed by a local vet.
Outraged by the experience, Rosenberg complained to the state and fought to have the vet's license revoked. In 2002, the vet's license was suspended for a year. He later agreed to voluntarily surrender his license.
In the course of digging, Rosenberg said, she discovered her vet had lost his license in Ohio. She said she also discovered about 24 other complaints against him. The problem, she said she realized, wasn't one vet as much as it was a system that she says makes it difficult for the public to find out about complaints.
"If people have a way of knowing about complaints, they can make a better-educated decision," Rosenberg said. "An educated consumer is what we all want to be." Helping her in the fight is state Sen. Larry Grooms, a Bonneau Republican. Grooms is pushing for increased public scrutiny earlier in the process, a move he said eliminates room for corruption.
Grooms has introduced an amendment to the Senate bill that would open the process 10 days after a formal complaint is filed. All subsequent hearings and records also would be public information.
"Sunshine is the best disinfectant," Grooms said. "My philosophy is, the more open any process is, the less likely it is you'll have corruption and the more public integrity you will have."
Still, others argue that opening the disciplinary process too early could unnecessarily damage reputations. Others say the number of complaints against vets doesn't warrant greater oversight than other state-regulated professions.
According to state records, about 1,200 vets are licensed by the state. In the past five years, about 220 complaints have been filed. Of those, 36 resulted in vets being disciplined, including public reprimands, probation and revocation of licenses.
Sharon Dantzler is a deputy general counsel for the state labor, licensing and regulation board who advises the state vet board. She said complaints against vets aren't out of line compared with other professions the state regulates.
The Senate bill, which includes Grooms' amendment, has been stalled by Sen. Danny Verdin, R-Laurens. Verdin, whose father is a veterinarian, didn't return calls for comment. State Rep. Tom Dantzler, a retired vet who opposes the increased public scrutiny early in the process, said he has no interest in protecting vets who are guilty of violations. Dantzler, R-Goose Creek, said he favors releasing information after the board decides. He said his goal is to make sure baseless complaints against vets don't ruin reputations unnecessarily. His main concern, he said, is small towns, where negative publicity could kill someone's practice.
"I don't want it to be made a media circus before people have a chance to examine both sides of the coin," he said.
A compromise for some is a bill in the General Assembly that would subject the roughly 40 professions the state regulates, including vets and hair stylists, to the same disciplinary criteria.
Steve Shrum, a past president of the South Carolina Association of Veterinarians, said that's the legislation his organization supports.
"If it is wide-open disclosure for everybody, it would be hard for us to say
'Not us,'" he said. "We just want it to be fair across all professions."
This article was printed via the web on 2/6/2006 9:15:37 pm . This article appeared in The Post and Courier and updated online at Charleston.net on Sunday, February 05, 2006
Let "Digger Dog" get related articles:
Rosenberg Exposes SC Vet Law Part 1
original: http://www.llr.state.sc.us/POL/Veterinary/Orders/2004July GorlitskyS.pdf
TheDogPlace.org for authoritative free DogCare information
If you breed or show dogs, get your news at TheDogPress.com
TheJudgesPlace.com especially for Judges, professional and owner handlers.