Letter to dvm360: Dr. Rosenberg's column describes a failure to report

June 8, 2018

Though the situation was fictional, dvm360 reader suggests it could have and should have been handled differently.

Months ago, Dr. Marc Rosenberg wrote a column describing a sad and disturbing account of an older female client of 25 years and her repeated pleas for help regarding abuse from her husband, which she described as being directed at her and her dog.

The attitude and response of Dr. King, the practice owner in the scenario, were all too common, but they actually may have crossed legal and ethical boundaries in the wrong way.

 

Veterinarians, along with other professionals such as teachers and doctors, are legally obligated to report any signs of animal or human abuse to authorities. In the column, Dr. King is not an MD or psychiatrist, so he cannot make determinations either way in examining or diagnosing the woman. He and his staff must take the client's pleas at face value and contact appropriate authorities, perhaps requesting the involvement of specific officers trained in mental health or abuse cases, or at the least requesting a "wellness check" for the woman. If feasible, Dr. King and his staff should actually keep her in the office until an officer can interview her.

If the claims are baseless, at least this process initiates a dialogue that may provide an innocent spouse a fortuitous early intervention. If they're not, Dr. King's complacency might jeopardize lives and his license could be revoked. When it comes to sorting paranoia from truth, veterinarians are unqualified to determine either.

 

E. Aldrich

Boulder, Colorado