Just a little pin-prick by MS Clipart
Recently, I read an article online that made my blood boil. The article is entitled, "5 Types of Potentially Litigious Veterinary Clients", by Christopher J. Allen, DVM, JD published September 1, 2010 in DVM Newsmagazine.
This article attempts to educate veterinarians how to safeguard their practices against potential veterinary malpractice lawsuits by avoiding clients he describes as troublesome, annoying, and possessing an unjustified blood-lust to pursue litigation. Dr. Allen scathingly outlines specific characteristics of veterinary clients which he suggests foreshadow the threat of being sued for veterinary malpractice. He warns vets to be wary of any clients who have complaints or were displeased with their pets' prior treatments at vet clinics/hospitals, including specialty practice clinics or those which are part of university veterinary medicine programs. Below is my paraphrased summary of the characteristics which Dr. Allen claims are warning signs of clients likely to sue for veterinary malpractice. Such clients are those who:
- have intense interest in the prescribed medical treatments for their pets
- voice concern about the quality of treatment
- desire details about procedures and other treatment modalities
- research veterinary medical issues using the Internet or other resources to educate themselves about issues relating to their pets' care
- state a previous misdiagnosis was made
- question the efficacy of and current trends in recommended treatments/procedures
- question the reasoning of the vet's decision to implement certain treatments/procedures
- ask frequent and detailed questions regarding medications, procedures, surgical procedures or other treatment modalities
- have enough knowledge about their pet's medical issues to question the vet's expertise, choice of treatments, and overall ability of the vet to deliver safe, quality care
- believe their pet's current medical problems stem from ineffective or harmful treatments/procedures performed at another vet clinic or animal hospital
- show loyalty to one veterinarian and are reluctant to employ another vet's services
- openly admit to engaging in litigation or other punitive measures targeted at another healthcare professional
I believe these characteristics are commonly displayed in pet-owners who are intelligent, resourceful, self-motivated, independent and creative thinkers, responsible, and are devotedly compassionate toward their pets. I think these traits are naturally linked to an intrinsic desire of the pet-parent to collaborate with any veterinarian on a beloved pet's care and treatment plan.
Conversely, Dr. Allen's portrayal of these attributes indicates that such pet-owners are not only time-consuming to deal with, mentally exhausting, annoying and potentially threatening (in terms of suing for veterinary malpractice), but some of them may not even be playing with a full deck of mental cards. He cites these characteristics are indicative of a person who may not be able to understand the realities of medical risks and outcomes because he or she childishly expects to receive unrealistic, magical resolutions to the pet's medical crisis. Therefore, Dr. Allen's assessment of such pet-owners seems clear: these are mentally unstable pests who are determined to assassinate the veterinarian's character and destroy his or her practice.