Veterinarian challenges board decision and wins


Boise, Idaho - An appeals court reversed an Idaho State Board ruling that disciplined a veterinarian.

BOISE, IDAHO — An appeals court reversed an Idaho State Board ruling that disciplined a veterinarian.

This is believed to be the first time a board's decision was reversed in Idaho, according to Dr. Daniel Koller, JD, who represented Wilson in court.

The Iowa Board of Veterinary Medicine (IBVM) became involved after a malpractice complaint was filed against Wilson, an associate at the Affordable Pet Clinic.

"This all stemmed from a procedure conducted on a Dachshund I treated that had problems post-surgically," Wilson explains.

After an investigation, the board's proposed resolution called for Wilson to sign a stipulation admitting guilt to charges and agreeing to an imposition of unspecified sanctions by the board.

"This is clear-cut extortion," says Dr. Daniel Koller, Wilson's attorney. "The board was saying the case didn't have to go to court if Wilson paid a $1,000 fine, took a couple of classes and signed away his integrity. Many veterinarians would be tempted to sign the paper to avoid the court hassle and cost."

Representation for the board sees their efforts in a different light.

"The board was trying to settle the issue out of court," Steve Tobiason, IBVM attorney says. "The fine requested to be paid by Wilson was a penalty for actions Dr. Barry Rathfon (investigator) found in violation of the standard of practice. This is how most veterinary boards function. It is in no way extortion."

Wilson was charged with:

  • Violating the professional standards of veterinary medicine by improperly bandaging the dog's leg after surgery.

  • Failing to recheck the dog within a reasonable time after surgery.

  • Failing to properly record telephone calls by the owner on the chart.

  • Failing to respond to telephone calls from the owner.

The bottom line is the standard of practice was not violated, Wilson says, yet the board brought multiple charges against him.

"I was very concerned when I was offered this complaint because I felt that I was being wrongly accused of something that would be considered malpractice," he says. "I cooperated and gave all the records. During my hearing, my feeling was that it was shown that my case wasn't open and shut."

The accusation

An employee working with Wilson allegedly did not alert him of the owner's phone call regarding the pet's ill condition.

"It was not appropriate to revoke a veterinarian's license using a failure to return a client's phone call as an excuse," Koller says. "Wilson was not notified, and he has no managerial power over the employees as an associate."

The hearing officer did not have evidence to support a pressure bandage was applied to the dog post-surgically, according to district court records.

"Medical records submitted by Dr. Wilson showed materials typically used in a pressure bandage were applied," Tobiason says. "The words 'pressure bandage' were on the record, but the word pressure was crossed out in pen. There is no way to determine when 'pressure' was stricken from the record."

Wilson maintains his innocence.

"If I didn't comply with what the board wanted, they would automatically find me guilty," Wilson says. "But I had to defend what I thought was right."

The final order by the board found Wilson guilty to all violations stated in the complaint; Wilson then appealed.

His appeal stated that he was deprived of his rights to due process by procedures followed by the board.

IBVM presented expert witness Dr. Steven Martinez from Washington State University, who agreed with Rathfon that the bandage was the cause of the problem. However, the appeals court chose not to hear Martinez's testimony.

"Either way, Wilson should have scheduled an appointment to re-examine the dog, not simply instruct the owner to call if there was a problem," Tobiason says.

The outcome

The board spent $50,000 to $60,000 trying to have Wilson's license revoked, according to Koller.

"They had to raise licensing fees in the state to help cover the financial loss," Koller says.

Although Tobiason says it is accurate to say the board invested a lot financially into this case, he contests that IBVM was trying to protect the public from a similar occurrence.

"Pressure sutures could have been the cause for the problems the dog had," Koller says. Therefore, the issue would have been deemed a complication from the actual procedure, not negligence as the board's investigator was reporting."

The 2.5-year court battle concluded with the judge ruling the facts in the record were insufficient as a matter of law. There was no evidence to support the conclusions stated, therefore there was nothing the board could base independent conclusions upon in the case.

"It is unheard of to have a veterinary board decision reversed," Koller says. I hope that the board decides to conduct their investigations in a more accurate and thorough manner."

Koller attributes Wilson's determination and strength to prove his innocence to the final outcome of the hearing.

"It takes a lot of guts to lay your license on the line," Koller says. "Even if you believe you are innocent, it is tempting to take the deal the board gives you to ensure your livelihood."

The Idaho board does not plan to stray from disciplinary procedures and refers to the case as having "an unfortunate outcome."

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